Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

example, as the plague itself by contact. In free countries, at least, it is a branch of liberty claimed by the people to be as wicked and as profligate'as their superiors. Thus while the nobleman will emulate the grandeur of a prince, and the gentleman will aspire to the proper state of the nobleman, the tradesman steps from behind his counter into the vacant place of the gentleman. Nor doth the confusion end here ; it reaches the very dregs of the people, who aspiring still to a degree beyond that which belongs to them, and not being able by the fruits of honest labour to support the state which they affect, they disdain the wages to which their industry would entitle them; and abandoning themselves to idleness, the more simple and poor-spirited betake themselves to a state of starving and beggary, while those of more art and courage become thieves, sharpers, and robbers.

Could luxury be confined to the palaces of the great, the society would not, perhaps, be much affected with it; at least, the mischiefs, which I am now intending to obviate, can never be the consequence. For though, perhaps, there is not more of real vir. tue in the higher state, yet the sense of honour is there more general and prevalent. But there is a much stronger reason. The means bear no probable proportion to the end ; for the loss of thousands, or of a great estate, is not to be relieved or supplied by any means of common theft or robbery.-With regard to such evils, therefore, the legislature might be justified in leaving the punishment as well as the pernicious consequence, to end in the misery, distress, and sometimes utter ruin of a private family. But when this vice descends downward to the tradesman, the mechanic, and the labourer, it is certain to engender many political mischiefs, and among

the rest it is most evidently the parent of theft and robbery, to which not only the motive of want but of shame conduces; for there is no greater degree of shame

than the tradesman generally, feels at the first in! ability to make his regular payments, nor is there any, difficulty which he would not undergo to avoid it. Here then the highway promises, and hath, I doubt not, often given relief. Nay, I remember: very lately a highwayman who confessed several robe beries before me, his motive to which, he assured me (and so it appeared), was to pay a bill that was shonly to become due. In this case, therefore, the publick becames interested, and consequently the legislature is obliged to interpose.

To give a final blow to luxury by any general prohibition, if it would be advisable, is by no means possible. - To say the truth, bad habits in the body politie, especially if of any duration, are seldom to he wholly eradicated. Palliatives alone are to be applied ; and these. too in a free constitution must be of the gentlest kind, and as much as possible adapted to the taste and genius of the people. The gentlest method -which I know, and at the same time perhaps one of the most effectual, of stopping the progress of vice, is by removing the temptation. Now the two great motives to luxury, in the mind of man, are vanity and voluptuousness. The former of these operates but little in this regard with the lower order of people. I do not mean that they have less of this passion than their betters; but the apparent impossibility of gratifying it this way deters them, and diverts at least this passion into another channel; for we find it puts tnem rather on vying with each other in the reputation of wealth, than in the outward appearance of shew and grandeur. Voluptuousness, or the love of pleasure, is that alone which leads them into luxury. Here then the temptation is with all possible care to be withdrawn from them. Now what greater temptation can there be to voluptuousness, than a place where every sense and appetite of which it is compounded, are fed and de

1

lighted; where the eyes are feasted with show, and the cars with musick, and where gluttony and drankenness are allured by every kind of dainty ; nay, where the finest women are exposed to view, and where the meanest person who can dress himself clean, may in some degree mix with his betters, and thus perhaps satisfy his vanity as well as his love of pleasure ?

It may possibly be said that these diversions are cheap : I answer, that is one objection I have to them; was the price as high as that of a ridotto, or an opera, it would, like these diversions, be confined to the higher people only; besides, the cheapness is really a delusion. Unthinking men are often deceived into expence, as I once knew an honest gentleman, who carried his wife and two daughters to a masquerade, being told that he could have four tickets for four guineas; but found afterwards, that in dresses, masques, chairs, &c. the night's entertainment cost him almost twelve. I am convinced that many thousands of honest tradesmen have found their expences exceed their computation in a much greater proportion. And the sum of seven or eight shillings (which is a very moderate allowance for the entertainment of the smallest family) repeated once or twice a week through a summer, will make too large a deduction from the reasonable profits of any low mechanic.

Besides the actual expence in attending these places of pleasure, the loss of time, and neglect of business, are consequences which the inferior tradesman can by no means support. To be born for no other purpose than to consume the fruits of the earth, is the privilege (if

it may be really called a privilege) of very few. The greater part of mankind must sweat hard to produce them, or society will no longer answer the purposes for which it was ordained. Six days shalt thou labour, was the positive command of God in his own republick. A severity, however, which the divine wisdom was pleased somewhat to relax ; and appointed certain times of rest and recreation for his people. Such were the feast of the unleavened bread, the feast of the weeks, and the feast of the tabernacles. On which occasions it is written, Thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and tby son, and thy daughter, and thy servant, and thy maid, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow *.

All other nations have imitated this divine insti. tution. It is true, among the Greeks, arising from the nature of their superstition, there were many festivals; yet scarce any of these were universal, and few attended with any other than religious ceremonies of The Roman calendar is thinner strewed with these seasons of idleness. Indeed there seems to have been one only kind of universal sport and revelling amongst them, which they called the Sa. turnalia, when much too great indulgence was given to all kinds of licentiousness. Public scenes of rendezvous they had none.

As to the Grecian women, it is well known they were almost entirely confined to their own houses; where the very entertainment of their finest ladies was only works of the finer

And the Romans by the Orchian law, which was made among many others for the suppression of luxury, and was published in the third year from Cato’s censorship, thought proper to limit the number of persons who were to assemble even at any private feast 1. Nay, the exhibitions of the theatre were suffered only at particular seasons, and on holidays.

sort.

* Exod. chap. xxxiv. Deut. chap. xvi. + The gods, says Plato, pitying the laborious condition to which men were born, appointed holy rites to themselves, as seasons of rest to men; and gave them the Muses, with Apollo their leader, and Bacchus, to assist in the celebrations, &c. De Leg. 1. ii. p. 787. edit. Ficini.

Macrob. Saturnal. lib. ii. c. xiii. Note, This Riot Act passed in one of the freest ages of the Roman republick. VOL. X.

А А

Nor are our own laws silent on this head, with regard at least to the lowest sort of people, whose diversions have been confined to certain stated times. Mr. Pulton*, speaking of those games and assemblies of the people which are lawful, says, that they are lawful at certain places and seasons of the year, allowed by old and antient customs. The statute of Henry VIII. op goes farther, and expressly enacts, that no manner of artificer or craftsman, of any handicraft or occupation, husbandman, apprentice, &c. shall play at the tables, tennis, dice, cards, bowls, &c. out of Christmas, under the penalty

of 205.

6

Thus we find that by divine as well as human institution, as well by our own laws as those of other countries, the diversions of the people have been livnited and restrained to certain seasons; under which limitations, Seneca calls these diversions the necessary temperament of labour. 'Some remission,' says he, 'must be given to our minds, which will

spring up the better, and inore brisk from rest. . It is with the mind as with a fruitful field, whose

fertility will be exhausted if we give it no inter' mission. The same will accrue to the mind by • incessant labours, whereas both from gentle remis

sion will acquire strength. From constant labour 4 arises a certain dulness and languor of the spirits ; . nor would men with such eagerness affect them, if

sport or merriment had not a certain natural sweetness inherent in themselves; the frequent use of which however will destroy all gravity and force in our minds. Sleep is necessary to our refresh

ment, but if this be continued night and day, it « will become death. There is a great difference between the remission of any thing and its dissolution. Lawgivers, therefore, instituted certain

holidays, that the people might be compelled by

,6

*. De Pace, fol. 25.

ti 33 Hen. VIII. c. ix.

« НазадПродовжити »