« PreviousContinue »
example, in the distribution of all offices in his disposal; especially if any apparent transgression, through favour or partiality, would be imputed to bim for a misdemeanor, by which he must certainly forfeit his favour and station. And there being such great numbers in employment, scattered through every town and county in this kingdom; if all these were exemplary in the con-, . duct of their lives, things would soon take a new face, and religion receive a mighty encouragement. Nor would the public weal be less advanced; since, of nine offices in ten that are ill executed, the defect is not in capacity or understanding, but in common honesty. I know no employment, for which piety disqualifies any man: and if it did, I doubt the objection would not be very feasonably offered at present; because it is perhaps too just a reflection, that, in the difposal of places, the question, wbether a person be fit for what he is recommended to? is generally the last that is thought on, or regarded.
I have often imagined, that something parallel to the office of censors anciently in Rome, would .be of mighty use among us, and could be easily limited from running into any exorbitances. The Romans understood liberty at least as well as we, , were as jealous of it, and, upon every occasion, : as.bold asserters: yet. I do not remember to have - read any great complaints of the abuses in that office among them; but many: admirable effects of it are left upon record. There are several per
nicious vices frequent and notorious among us, that escape or elude the punishment of any law we have yet invented, or have had no law at all against them; fuch as atheism, drunkenness, fraud, avarice, and several others; which, by this institution, wisely regulated, might be much rein formed. Suppose, for instance, that itinerary commissioners were appointed to inspect, every where throughout the kingdom, into the conduct (at least) of men in office, with respect to their morals and religion, as well as their abilities; to receive the complaints and informations that should be offered against them, and make their report here upon oath, to the court or the miniftry, who should reward or punish accordingly. I avoid entering into the particulars of this, or any other scheme, which, coming from a private: hand, might be liable to many defects, but would foon be digested by the wisdom of the nation.. And, surely, fix thousand pounds a-year would not be ill laid out among as many commissioners duly qualified, whe, in three divisions, should be personally obliged to take their yearly circuits for that purpose.
But this is beside my present design; which was only to thew what degree of reformation is; in the power of the Queen, without the interposition of the legislature ;; and which her Majesty is, without question, obliged in conscience to endeavour by her authority, as much as she doth by her practice.
It will be easily granted, that the example of this great town hath a mighty influence over the whole kingdom ; and it is as manifeft, that the town is equally influenced by the court, and the ministry, and those who, by their employments or their hopes, depend upon them. Now, if, under fo excellent a princefs as the present Queen, we would suppose a family strictly regulated, as I have above proposed ; a ministry where every fingle person was of distinguished piety ; if we fhould suppose all great offices of state and law filled after the fame manner, and with fuch as were equally diligent in chusing persons, who, in their several subordinations, would be obliged to follow the examples of their superiors, under the penalty of loss of favour and place; will not every body grant, that the empire of vice and irreligion would be soon destroyed in this great metropolis, and receive a terrible blow through the whole i. fland, which hath fo great an intercourse with it, and so much affects to follow its fashions ?
For, if religion were once understood to be the neceffary step to favour and preferment, can it be imagined that any man would openly offend against it, who had the least regard for his reputation or his førtune? There is no quality fo contrary to any nature, which men cannot affect, and put on upon occasion, in order to serve an interest, or gratify a prevailing passion. The proudest man will personate humility, the morosest learn to flatter, the laziest will be sedulous and active, where he is in pursuit of what he hath much at heart: how ready, therefore, would most men be to step into the paths of virtue and piety, if they infallibly led to favour and fortune!
If swearing and profaneness, fcandalous and ayowed lewdness, excessive gaming and intemperance, were a little discountenanced in the army, I cannot readily see what ill consequences could be apprehended. If gentlemen of that profession were at least obliged to some external decorum in their conduct; or even if a profligate life and character were not a means of advancement, and the appearance of piety a moft infallible hinderance, it is impossible the corruptions there, should be so universal and exorbitant. I have been afsured by several great officers, that no troops am broad are so ill disciplined as the English; which cannot well be otherwise, while the common foldiers have perpetually before their eyes, the vitious example of their leaders; and it is hardly possible for those to commit any crime, whereof these are not infinitely more guilty, and with less temptation.
It is commonly charged upon the gentlemen of the army, that the beastly vice of drinking to excess, hath been lately, from their example, restored among us; which, for some years before, was almost dropt in England. But, whoever the introducers were, they have succeeded to a miracle ; many of the young nobility and gentry are already become great proficients, and are un
der no manner of concern to hide their talent, but are got beyond all sense of shame, or fear of reproach.
This might foon be remedied, if the Queen would think fit to declare, that no young person of quality whatsoever, who was notoriously addicted to that, or any other vice, should be capable of her favour, or even admitted into her presence; with positive command to her ministers, and others in great office, to treat them in the same manner : after which, all men who had any regard for their reputation, or any prospect of preferment, would avoid their commerce. This would quickly make that vice so scandalous, that those who could not fubdue, would at least endeavour to disguise it.
By the like methods, a stop might be put to that ruinous practice of deep gaming : and the reason why it prevails so much, is, because a treatment, directly opposite in every point, is made use of to promote it; by which means, the laws enacted against this abuse, are wholly eluded.
It cannot be denied, that the want of strict difcipline in the universities hath been of pernicious consequence to the youth of this nation, who are there almost left entirely to their own management, especially those among them of better quality and fortune; who, because they are not under a necessity of making learning their maintenance, are easily allowed to pass their time, and take their degrees with little or no improvement..