Letters on the Study and Use of History

第91章 LETTER 8(33)

If this consideration should not plead a sufficient excuse for my prolixity on this head,I have one more to add that may.A rage of warring possessed a party in our nation till the death of the late queen:a rage of negotiating has possessed the same party of men,ever since.You have seen the consequences of one:you see actually those of the other.The rage of warring confirmed the beggary of our nation,which began as early as the revolution;but then it gave,in the last war,reputation to our arms,and our councils too.For though I think,and must always think,that the principle,on which we acted after departing from that laid down in the grand alliance of one thousand seven hundred and one,was wrong;yet must we confess that it was pursued wisely,as well as boldly.The rage of negotiating has been a chargeable rage likewise,at least as chargeable in its proportion.Far from paying our debts,contracted in war,they continue much the same,after three and twenty years of peace.The taxes that oppress our mercantile interest the most are still in mortgage;and those that oppress the landed interest the most,instead of being laid on extraordinary occasions,are become the ordinary funds for the current service of every year.This is grievous,and the more so to any man,who has the honor of his country,as well as her prosperity at heart,because we have not,in this case,the airy consolation we had in the other.The rage of negotiating began twenty years ago,under pretence of consummating the treaty of Utrecht:and,from that time to this,our ministers have been in one perpetual maze.They have made themselves and us,often,objects of aversion to the powers on the continent:and we are become at last objects of contempt,even to the Spaniards.What other effect could our absurd conduct have?What other return has it deserved?We came exhausted out of long wars and,instead of pursuing the measures necessary to give us means and opportunity to repair our strength and to diminish our burdens,our ministers have acted,from that time to this,like men who sought pretences to keep the nation in the same exhausted condition,and under the same load of debt.This may have been their view perhaps;and we could not be surprised if we heard the same men declare national poverty necessary to support the present government,who have so frequently declared corruption and a standing army to be so.Your good sense,my lord,your virtue,and your love of your country,will always determine you to oppose such vile schemes,and to contribute your utmost towards the cure of both these kinds of rage;the rage of warriors,without any proportionable interest of our own,for the ambition of others;and the rage of negotiating,on every occasion,at any rate,without a sufficient call to it,and without any part of that deciding influence which we ought to have.Our nation inhabits an island,and is one of the principal nations of Europe;but to maintain this rank,we must take the advantages of this situation,which have been neglected by us for almost half a century:we must always remember,that we are not part of the continent,but we must never forget that we are neighbors to it.I will conclude,by applying a rule,that Horace gives for the conduct of an epic or dramatic poem,to the part Great Britain ought to take in the affairs of the continent,if you allow me to transform Britannia into a male divinity,as the verse requires.

Nec Deus intersit nisi dignus vindice nodus Inciderit.

If these reflections are just,and I should not have offered them to your lordship had they not appeared both just and important to my best understanding,you will think that I have not spent your time unprofitably in making them,and exciting you by them to examine the true interest of your country relatively to foreign affairs;and to compare it with these principles of conduct,that,I am persuaded,have no other foundation than party designs,prejudices,and habits;the private interest of some men,and the ignorance and rashness of others.

Henry St John Bolingbroke