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court lady, not the least sense of virtue in the practice of every vice; this requires the highest degree of impudence; that degree indeed which is incon, sistent with every great or good quality whatever.
NUMB. 49. SATURDAY, JUNE 20, 1752.
Odi profanum vulgus.
a former paper I have endeavoured to trace the rise and progress of the power of the fourth estate in this constitution. I shall now examine that share of power which they actually enjoy at this day, and then proceed to consider the several means by which they have attained it.
First, though this estate have not as yet claimed that riglit which was insisted on by the people or mob in old Rome, of giving a negative voice in the enacting laws, they have clearly exercised this power in controlling their execution. Of this it is easy to give many instances, particularly in the case of the gin-act some years ago; and in those of several turnpikes which have been erected against the good will and pleasure of the mob, and have by them been demolished.
In opposing the execution of such laws, they do not always rely on force; but have frequent recourse to the most refined policy; for sometimes, without openly expressing their disapprobation, they take the most effectual means to prevent the carrying a law into execution; those are by discountenancing all those who endeavour to prosecute the offences committed against it.
They well know that the courts of justice cannot proceed without informations; if they can stifle these, the law of course becomes dead and useless. The informers therefore in such cases they declare to be infamous, and guilty of the crime lesæ mobilitatis. Of this whoever is suspected (which is with them a synonymous term with convicted) is immediately punished by buffeting, kicking, stoning, ducking, bemudding, &c. in short, by all those means of putting (sometimes quite, sometimes almost) to death, which are called by that general phrase of mobbing.
It may, perhaps, be said, that the mob do, even at this day, connive at the execution of some laws, which they can by no means be supposed to approve.
Such are the laws against robbery, burglary, and theft. This is, I confess, true; and I have often wondered that it is so. The reason perhaps is, the great love which the mob have for a holiday, and the great pleasure they take in seeing men hanged; so great, that, while they are enjoying it, they are all apt to forget that this is hereafter, in all probability, to be their own fate.
In all these matters, however, the power of this estate is rather felt than seen. It seems, indeed, to be like that power of the crown of France, which Cardinal de Retz compares to those religious mysteries that are performed in the sanctum sanctorum ; and which, though it be often exercised, is never expressly claimed.
In other instances the fourth estate is much more. explicit in their pretensions, and much more constant in asserting and maintaining them; of which I shall mention some of the principal.
First, they assert an exclusive right to the river of Thames. It is true, the other estates do sometimes venture themselves upon the river ; but this is only upon sufferance; for which they pay whatever that
branch of the fourth estate, called watermen, are pleased to exact of them. Nor are the mob contented with all these exactions. They grumble whenever they meet any persons in a boat, whose dress declares them to be of a different order from themselves. Sometimes they carry their resentment so far as to endeavour to run against the boat, and overset it; but if they are too good-natured to attempt this, they never fail to attack the passengers with all kind of scurrilous, abusive, and indecent terms, which indeed they claim as their own, and call mob language.
The second exclusive right which they insist on is to those parts of the streets which are set apart for the foot-passengers. In asserting this privilege, they are extremely rigorous; insomuch, that none of the other orders can walk through the streets by day without being insulted, nor by night without being knocked down. And the better to secure these foot-paths to themselves, they take effectual care to keep the said paths always well blocked up with chairs, wheel-barrows, and every other kind of obstruction; in order to break the legs of all those who shall presume to encroach upon their privileges by walking the streets.
Here it was hoped their pretensions would have stopped ; but it is difficult to set any bounds to ambition ; for, having sufficiently established this right, they now begin to assert their right to the whole street, and to have lately made such a disposition with their waggons, carts, and drays, that no coach can pass along without the utmost difficulty and danger. With this view we every day sce them driving side by side, and sometimes in the broader streets three abreasi; again, we see them leaving a cart or waggon in the middle of the street, and often set across it, while the driver repairs to a neighbouring alehouse, from the window of which he diverts himself while he is drinking, with the
mischief or inconvenience which his vehicle occasions.
The same pretensions which they make to the possession of the streets they make likewise to the possession of the highways. I doubt not I shall be told they claim only an equal right; for I know it is very usual when a carter or drayman is civilly desired to make a little room, by moving out of the middle of the road either to the right or left, to hear the following answer : D-n your eyes, • who are you? Is not the road, and be d-n'd
to you, as free for me as you . Hence it will, I suppose, be inferred, that they do not absolutely exclude the other estates from the use of the common highways. But notwithstanding this generous concession in words, I do aver this practice is different, and that a gentleman may go a voyage at sea with little more hazard than he can travel ten miles from the metropolis.
I shall inention only one claim more, and that a very new and a very extraordinary one.
It is the right of excluding all women of fashion out of St. James's Park on a Sunday evening. This they have lately asserted with great vehemence, and have inflicted the punishment of mobbing on several ladies, who had transgressed without design, not having been apprised of the good pleasure of the mob in this point. And this I the rather publish to prevent any such transgressions for the future, since it hath already appeared, that no degree of either dignity or beauty can secure the offender*.
Many things have contributed to raise this fourth estate to that exorbitant degree of power which they at present enjoy, and which seems to threaten to shake the balance of our constitution. I shall name only three, as these appear to me to have had much the greatest share in bringing it about.
* A lady of great quality, and ad nire ble bintity, was nobbed in the Park at this time.
The first is that act of parliament which was made at the latter end of queen Elizabeth's reign, and which I cannot help considering as a kind of compromise between the other three estates and this. By this act it was stipulated, that the fourth estare should annually receive out of the possessions of the others, a certain large proportion yearly, upon an implied condition (for no such was expressed) that they should suffer the other estates to enjoy the rest of their property without loss or molestation,
This law gave a new turn to the minds of the mobility. They found themselves no longer obliged to depend on the charity of their neighbours, nor on their own industry, for a maintenance. They now looked upon themselves as joint proprietors in the land, and celebrated their independency in songs of triumph ; witness the old ballad which was in all their mouths,
Hang sorrow, casť away care ;
The parish is bound to find us, &c. A second cause of their present elevation has beert the private quarrels between particular members of the other estates, who, on such occasions, have done all they could on both sides to raise the power of the mob, in order to avail themselves of it, and to enoploy it against their enemies.
The third, and the last which I shall mention, is the mistaken idea which some particular persons have always entertained of the word liberty; but this will open too copious a subject, and shall be. therefore treated in a future paper.
But before I dismiss this I must observe that there are two sorts of persons of whom this fourth estate do vet stand in some awe, and whom consequently they have in great abhorrence: these are a justice of peace, and a soldier. To these two it is entirely owing that they have not long since rooted all the other orders out of the commonwealth.