The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 5/The Importance of the Guardian Considered in a Second Letter to the Bailiff of Stockbridge
A SECOND LETTER
BAILIFF OF STOCKBRIDGE.
BY A FRIEND OF MR. STEELE.
FIRST PRINTED IN 1713.
THE original edition of this tract was become so exceedingly scarce, that the editor in vain advertised for a copy of it in most of the publick papers for many months, and obtained it at last by an unexpected accident. Though we have no positive evidence to ascribe this tract to Swift, yet there are circumstances equal to decisive testimony. It is enumerated in the Examiner, among other pieces which were certainly written by him, and which are separated from those of other writers, in a manner which appears intended to prevent their being confounded with the works of inferiour authors. But here we must lament the interruption of the Journal to Stella, which, in several instances, has so decisively ascertained those pieces, which we at first only conjectured to be Swift's from their being classed in the above described manner. Not one tract, however, has been thus admitted, that bears not the internal marks of its author; the few which appeared suspicious being still consigned to obscurity. Our author went to Ireland, June, 1713, to take possession of his deanery; but returned to London in September: and it is certain, that the following winter produced some of the most excellent pieces, both in prose and verse, which are to be found in his whole works.
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
MR. Steele, in his " the Bailiff Stockbridge," has given us leave "to treat him as we think fit, as he is our brother scribbler; but not to attack him as an honest man," p. 40. That is to say, he allows us to be his criticks, but not his answerers; and he is altogether in the right, for there is in his letter much to be criticised, and little to be answered. The situation and importance of Dunkirk are pretty well known. Mons. Tugghe's memorial, published and handed about by the whigs, is allowed to be a very trifling paper: and as to the immediate demolishment of that town, Mr. Steele pretends to offer no other argument but the expectations of the people, which is a figurative speech, naming the tenth part for the whole; as Bradshaw told king Charles I, that the people of England expected justice against him. I have therefore entered very little into the subject he pretends to treat; but have considered his pamphlet partly as a critick, and partly as a commentator; which, I think, is "to treat him only as my brother scribbler," according to the permission he has graciously allowed me.
To the worshipful MR. JOHN SNOW, bailiff of Stockbridge.
I HAVE just been reading a twelvepenny pamphlet about Dunkirk, addressed to your worship from one of your intended representatives; and I find several passages in it which want explanation, especially to you in the country: for we in town, have a way of talking and writing, which is very little understood beyond the bills of mortality. I have therefore made bold to send you here a second letter, by way of comment upon the former.
In order to this, "You, Mr. Bailiff, and at the same time the whole borough," may please to take notice, that London writers often put titles to their papers and pamphlets, which have little or no reference to the main design of the work: so, for instance, you will observe in reading, that the letter called, "The Importance of Dunkirk," is wholly taken up in showing you the importance of Mr. Steele; wherein it was indeed reasonable your borough should be informed, which had chosen him to represent them.
I would therefore place the importance of this gentleman before you, in a clearer light than he has given himself the trouble to do; without running into his early history, because I owe him no malice.
Mr. Steele is author of two tolerable plays, or at least of the greatest part of them; which, added to the company he kept, and to the continual conversation and friendship of Mr. Addison, has given him the character of a wit. To take the height of his learning, you are to suppose a lad just fit for the university, and sent early from thence into the wide world, where he followed every way of life, that might least improve, or preserve, the rudiments he had got. He has no invention, nor is master of a tolerable style; his chief talent is humour, which he sometimes discovers both in writing and discourse; for, after the first bottle, he is no disagreeable companion. I never knew him taxed with ill nature, which has made me wonder how ingratitude came to be his prevailing vice; and I am apt to think it proceeds more from some unaccountable sort of instinct, than premeditation. Being the most imprudent man alive, he never follows the advice of his friends; but is wholly at the mercy of fools or knaves, or hurried away by his own caprice; by which he has committed more absurdities, in economy, friendship, love, duty, good manners, politicks, religion, and writing, than ever fell to one man's share. He was appointed gazetteer by Mr. Harley (then secretary of state) at the recommendation of Mr. Maynwaring, with a salary of three hundred pounds; was a commissioner of stamped paper, of equal profit; and had a pension of a hundred pounds per annum, as a servant to the late prince George.
This gentleman, whom I have now described to you, began between four and five years ago to publish a paper thrice a week, called the Tatler. It came out under the borrowed name of Isaac Bickerstaff, and, by contribution of his ingenious friends, grew to have a great reputation, and was equally esteemed by both parties, because it meddled with neither. But, some time after Sacheverell's trial, when things began to change their aspect, Mr. Steele, whether by the command of his superiours, his own inconstancy, or the absence of his assistants, would needs corrupt his paper with politicks: published one or two most virulent libels, and chose for his subject even that individual Mr. Harley, who had made him gazetteer. But, his finger and thumb not proving strong enough to stop the general torrent, there was a universal change made in the ministry; and the two new secretaries, not thinking it decent to employ a man in their office who had acted so infamous a part, Mr. Steele, to avoid being discarded, thought fit to resign his place of gazetteer. Upon which occasion, I cannot forbear relating a passage "to you, Mr. Bailiff, and the rest of the borough," which discovers a very peculiar turn of thought in this gentleman you have chosen to represent you. When Mr. Maynwaring recommended him to the employment of gazetteer, Mr. Harley, out of an inclination to encourage men of parts, raised that office from fifty pounds to three hundred pounds a year. Mr. Steele, according to form, came to give his new patron thanks; but the secretary, who would rather confer a hundred favours, than receive acknowledgments for one, said to him, in a most obliging manner, "Pray, sir, do not thank me; but thank Mr. Maynwaring." Soon after Mr. Steele's quitting that employment, he complained to a gentleman in office, of the hardship put upon him in being forced to quit his place: that he knew Mr. Harley was the cause; that he never had done Mr. Harley any injury, nor received any obligation from him. The gentleman, amazed at this discourse, put him in mind of those libels published in his Tatlers. Mr. Steele said, he was only the publisher, for they had been sent him by other hands. The gentleman thinking this a very monstrous kind of excuse, and not allowing it, Mr. Steele then said, "Well, I have libelled him, and he has turned me out; and so we are equal." — But neither would this be granted: and he was asked whether the place of gazetteer were not an obligation? "No," said he, "not from Mr. Harley; for, when I went to thank him, he forbad me, and said, I must only thank Mr. Maynwaring."
But I return, Mr. Bailiff, to give you a farther account of this gentleman's importance. In less, I think, than two years, the town and he grew weary of the Tatler: he was silent for some months; and then a daily paper came from him and his friends, under the name of Spectator, with good success: this being likewise dropped after a certain period, he has of late appeared under the style of Guardian, which he has now likewise quitted for that of Englishman; but, having chosen other assistance, or trusting more to himself, his papers have been very coldly received, which has made him fly for relief to the never failing source of faction.
In the beginning of August last, Mr. Steele writes a letter to Nestor Ironside, esq., and subscribes it with the name of "English Tory." On the 7th, the said Ironside publishes this letter in the Guardian. How shall I explain this matter to you, Mr. Bailiff, and your brethren of the borough? You must know then, that Mr. Steele and Mr. Ironside are the same persons, because there is a great relation between Iron and Steel; and English Tory and Mr. Steele are the same persons, because there is no relation at all between Mr. Steele and an English Tory; so that, to render this matter clear to the very meanest capacities, Mr. English Tory, the very same person with Mr. Steele, writes a letter to Nestor Ironside, esq., who is the same person with English Tory, who is the same person with Mr. Steele: and Mr. Ironside, who is the same person with English Tory, publishes the letter written by English Tory, who is the same person with Mr. Steele, who is the same person with Mr. Ironside. This letter, written and published by these three gentlemen, who are one of your representatives, complains of a printed paper in French and English, lately handed about the town, and given gratis to passengers in the streets at noon day; the title whereof is, "A most humble Address, or Memorial, presented to her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, by the Deputy of the Magistrates of Dunkirk." This deputy, it seems, is called the sieur Tugghe. Now, the remarks made upon this memorial by Mr. English Tory, in his letter to Mr. Ironside, happening to provoke the Examiner and another pamphleteer, they both fell hard upon Mr. Steele, charging him with insolence and ingratitude toward the queen. But Mr. Steele, nothing daunted, writes a long letter "to you, Mr. Bailiff, and at the same time to the whole borough," in his own vindication. But, there being several difficult passages in this letter, which may want clearing up, I here send you and the borough my annotation upon it.
Mr. Steele, in order to display his importance to your borough, begins his letter by letting you know "he is no small man," p. 1; because, in the pamphlets he has sent you down, you will "find him spoken of more than once in print." It is indeed a great thing to be "spoken of in print," and must needs make a mighty sound at Stockbridge among the electors. However, if Mr. Steele has really sent you down all the pamphlets and papers printed since the dissolution, you will find he is not the only person of importance; I could instance Abel Roper, Mr. Marten the surgeon, Mr. John Moore the apothecary at the pestle and mortar, sir William Read her majesty's oculist, and, of later name and fame, Mr. John Smith the corncutter, with several others who are "spoken of more than once in print." Then he recommends to your perusal, and sends you a copy of, a printed paper given gratis about the streets, which is the memorial of monsieur Tugghe, abovementioned, "Deputy of the magistrates of Dunkirk," to desire her majesty not to demolish the said town. He tells you how insolent a thing it is, that such a paper should be publickly distributed, and he tells you true; but these insolences are very frequent among the whigs. One of their present topicks for clamour is Dunkirk: here is a memorial said to be presented to the queen by an obscure Frenchman; one of your party gets a copy, and immediately prints it by contribution, and delivers it gratis to the people: which answers several ends. First, It is meant to lay an odium on the ministry. Secondly, If the town be soon demolished, Mr. Steele and his faction have the merit; their arguments and threatenings have frightened my lord treasurer. Thirdly, If the demolishing should be farther deferred, the nation will be fully convinced of his lordship's intention to bring over the pretender.
Let us turn over fourteen pages, which contain the memorial itself, and which is indeed as idle a one as ever I read; we come now to Mr. Steele's letter, under the name of English Tory, to Mr. Ironside. In the preface to this letter, p. 15, he has these words; "It is certain there is not much danger in delaying the demolition of Dunkirk during the life of his present most christian majesty, who is renowned for the most inviolable regard to treaties; but that pious prince is aged, and in case of his decease," &c. This preface is in the words of Mr. Ironside, a professed whig; and perhaps you in the country will wonder to hear a zealot of your own party, celebrating the French king for his piety and his religious performance of treaties. For this, I can assure you, is not spoken in jest, or to be understood by contrary. There is a wonderful resemblance between that prince and the party of whigs among us. Is he for arbitrary government? So are they. Has he persecuted protestants? So have the whigs. Did he attempt to restore king James and his pretended son? They did the same. Would he have Dunkirk surrendered to him? This is what they desire. Does he call himself the Most Christian? The whigs assume the same title, though their leaders deny Christianity. Does he break his promises? Did they ever keep theirs?
From the 16th to the 38th page, Mr. Steele's pamphlet is taken up with a copy of his letter to Mr. Ironside, the remarks of the Examiner and another author upon that letter: the hydrography of some French and English ports, and his answer to Mr. Tugghe's memorial. The bent of his discourse is, in appearance, to show of what prodigious consequence to the welfare of England the surrender of Dunkirk was. But here, Mr. Bailiff, you must be careful; for all this is said in raillery; for you may easily remember, that when the town was first yielded to the queen, the whigs declare it was of no consequence at all, that the French could easily repair it after the demolition, or fortify another a few miles off, which would be of more advantage to them. So that what Mr. Steele tells you, of the prodigious benefit that will accrue to England by destroying this port, is only suited to present junctures and circumstances. For, if Dunkirk should now be represented as insignificant as when it was first put into her majesty's hands, it would signify nothing whether it were demolished or not, and consequently one principal topick of clamour would fall to the ground.
In Mr. Steele's answer to monsieur Tugghe's arguments against the demolishing of Dunkirk, I have not observed any thing that so much deserves your peculiar notice, as the great eloquence of your new member, and his wonderful faculty of varying his style, which he calls "proceeding like a man of great gravity and business," p. 31. He has ten arguments of Tugghe's to answer; and because he will not go in the old beaten road, like a parson of a parish, first, secondly, thirdly, &c. his manner is this:
In answer to the sieur's first.
As to the sieur's second.
As to his third.
As to the sieur's fourth.
As to Mr. deputy's fifth.
As to the sieur's sixth.
As to this agent's seventh.
As to the sieur's eighth.
As to his ninth.
As to the memorialist's tenth.
You see every second expression is more ordiversified, to avoid the repetition of, "As to the sieur's," &c. and there is the tenth into the bargain. I could heartily wish monsieur Tugghe had been able to find ten arguments more, and thereby given Mr. Steele an opportunity of showing the utmost variations our language would bear, in so momentous a trial.
Mr. Steele tells you, "That having now done with his foreign enemy, monsieur Tugghe, he must face about to his domestick foes, who accuse him of ingratitude, and insulting his prince, while he is eating her bread."
To do him justice, he acquits himself pretty tolerably of this last charge: for he assures you, he gave up his stamped paper office, and pension as gentleman usher before he wrote that letter to himself in the Guardian; so that he had already received his salary, and spent his money, and consequently the bread was eaten at least a week before he would offer to insult his prince: so that the folly of the Examiner's objecting ingratitude to him upon this article, is manifest to all the world.
But, he tells you, he has quitted those employments, to render him more useful to his queen and country, in the station you have honoured him with. That, no doubt, was the principal motive; however, I shall venture to add some others. First, the Guardian apprehended it impossible, that the ministry would let him keep his place much longer, after the part he had acted for above two years past. Secondly, Mr. Ironside said publickly, that he was ashamed to be obliged any longer to a person (meaning the lord treasurer) whom he had used so ill: for, it seems, a man ought not to use his benefactors ill, above two years and a half. Thirdly, The sieur Steele appeals for protection to you, Mr. Bailiff, from others of your denomination, who would have carried him somewhere else, if you had not relieved him, by your habeas corpus to St. Stephen's chapel. Fourthly, Mr. English Tory found, by calculating the life of a ministry, that it has lasted above three years, and is near expiring; he resolved, therefore, to "strip off the very garments spotted with the flesh," and be wholly regenerate against the return of his old masters.
In order to serve all these ends, your borough has honoured him (as he expresses it) with choosing him to represent you in parliament; and it must be owned, he has equally honoured you. Never was borough more happy in suitable representatives, than you are in Mr. Steele and his colleague; nor were ever representatives more happy in a suitable borough.
When Mr. Steele talked of "laying before her majesty's ministry, that the nation has a strict eye upon their behaviour with relation to Dunkirk," p. 39; did not you, Mr. Bailiff, and your brethren of the borough, presently imagine he had drawn up a sort of countermemorial to that of monsieur Tugghe, and presented it in form to my lord treasurer, or a secretary of state? I am confident you did; but this comes by not understanding the town. You are to know then, that Mr. Steele publishes every day a penny paper to be read in coffeehouses, and get him a little money. This, by a figure of speech, he calls, "laying things before the ministry," who seem at present a little too busy to regard such memorials; and, I dare say, never saw his paper, unless he sent it by the penny post.
Well, but he tells you, "he cannot offer against the Examiner and his other adversary, reason and argument, without appearing void of both," ibid. What a singular situation of the mind is this! How glad should I be to hear a man "offer reasons and argument, and yet at the same time appear void of both!" But this whole paragraph is of a peculiar strain; the consequences so just and natural, and such a propriety in thinking, as few authors ever arrive at. "Since it has been the fashion to run down men of much greater consequence than I am; I will not bear the accusation," ibid. This, I suppose, is, "to offer reasons and arguments, and yet appear void of both." And in the next lines; "These writers shall treat me as they think fit, as I am their brother-scribbler; but I shall not be so unconcerned when they attack me as an honest man," p. 40. And how does he defend himself? "I shall therefore inform them, that it is not in the power of a private man, to hurt the prerogative," &c. Well; I shall treat him only as a brother-scribbler; and I guess he will hardly be attacked as an honest man: but, if his meaning be that his honesty ought not to be attacked, because he "has no power to hurt the honour and prerogative of the crown without being punished;" he will make an admirable reasoner in the house of commons.
But all this wise argumentation was introduced, only to close the paragraph, by hauling in a fact which he relates to you and your borough, in order to quiet the minds of the people, and express his duty and gratitude to the queen. The fact is this; "That her majesty's honour is in danger of being lost, by her ministers tolerating villains without conscience to abuse the greatest instruments of honour and glory to our country, the most wise and faithful managers, and the most pious, disinterested, generous, and self-denying patriots;" and the instances he produces are, the duke of Marlborough, the late earl of Godolphin, and about two thirds of the bishops.
Mr. Bailiff, I cannot debate this matter at lengthy without putting you, and the rest of my countrymen who will be at the expense, to sixpence charge extraordinary. The duke and earl were both removed from their employments; and I hope you have too great a respect for the queen, to think it was done for nothing. The former was at the head of many great actions; and he has received plentiful oblations of praise and profit: yet, having read all that ever was objected against him by the Examiner, I will undertake to prove every syllable of it true, particularly that famous attempt to be general for life. The earl of Godolphin is dead, and his faults may sojourn with him in the grave, till some historian shall think fit to revive part of them, for instruction and warning to posterity. But it grieved me to the soul, to see so many good epithets bestowed by Mr. Steele upon the bishops: nothing has done more hurt to that sacred order for some years past, than to hear some prelates extolled by whigs, dissenters, republicans, socinians, and, in short, by all who are enemies to episcopacy. God, in his mercy, for ever keep our prelates from deserving the praises of such panegyrists!
Mr. Steele is discontented that the ministry have not "called the Examiner to account, as well as the Flying-Post." I will inform you, Mr. Bailiff, how that matter stands. The author of the Flying-Post has thrice a week, for above two years together, published the most impudent reflections upon all the present ministry, upon all their proceedings, and upon the whole body of tories. The Examiner, on the other side, writing in defence of those whom her majesty employs in her greatest affairs, and of the cause they are engaged in, has always born hard upon the whigs, and now and then upon some of their leaders. Now, sir, we reckon here, that supposing the persons on both sides to be of equal intrinsick worth, it is more impudent, immoral, and criminal, to reflect on a majority in power, than a minority out of power. Put the case, that an odd rascally tory in your borough should presume to abuse your worship, who, in the language of Mr. Steele, are first minister, and the majority of your brethren, for sending two such whig representatives up to parliament; and on the other side, that an honest whig should stand in your defence, and fall foul on the tories; would you equally resent the proceedings of both, and let your friend and enemy sit in the stocks together? Hearken to another case, Mr. Bailiff; suppose your worship, during your annual administration, should happen to be kicked and cuffed by a parcel of tories; would not the circumstance of your being a magistrate make the crime the greater, than if the like insults were committed on an ordinary tory shopkeeper, by a company of honest whigs? What bailiff would venture to arrest Mr. Steele, now he has the honour to be your representative? and what bailiff ever scrupled it before?
You must know, sir, that we have several ways here of abusing one another, without incurring the danger of the law. First, we are careful never to print a man's name out at length; but, as I do, that of Mr. St—le: so that, although every body alive knows whom I mean, the plaintiff can have no redress in any court of justice. Secondly, by putting cases; thirdly, by insinuations; fourthly, by celebrating the actions of others, who acted directly contrary to the persons we would reflect on; fifthly, by nicknames, either commonly known or stamped for the purpose, which every body can tell how to apply. Without going on farther, it will be enough to inform you, that by some of the ways I have already mentioned, Mr. Steele gives you to understand, that the queen's honour is blasted by the actions of her present ministers; that "her prerogative is disgraced by creating a dozen peers, who, by their votes, turned a point upon which your all depended; that these ministers made the queen lay down her conquering arms, and deliver herself up to be vanquished; that they made her majesty betray her allies, by ordering her army to face about, and leave them in the moment of distress; that the present ministers are men of poor and narrow conceptions, self-interested, and without benevolence to mankind, and were brought into her majesty's favour for the sins of the nation: and only think what they may do, not what they ought to do," p. 43. This is the character given by Mr. Steele of those persons whom her majesty has thought fit to place in the highest stations of the kingdom, and to trust with the management of her most weighty affairs; and this is the gentleman who cries out, "Where is honour? where is government? where is prerogative?" p. 40; because the Examiner has sometimes dealt freely with those whom the queen has thought fit to discard, and the parliament to censure.
But Mr. Steele thinks it highly dangerous to the prince, "that any man should be hindered from offering his thoughts upon publick affairs;" and resolves to do it, "though with the loss of her majesty's favour," p. 45. If a clergyman offers to preach obedience to the higher powers, and proves it by Scripture; Mr. Steele and his fraternity immediately cry out, "What have parsons to do with politicks?" I ask, What shadow of a pretence has he to offer his crude thoughts in matters of state? to print and publish them? "to lay them before the queen and ministry?" and to reprove both for maleadministration? How did he acquire these abilities of directing in the councils of princes? Was it from publishing Tatlers and Spectators, and writing now and then a Guardian? was it from his being a soldier, alchemist, gazetteer, commissioner of stamped papers, or gentleman usher? No; but he insists it is every man's right to find fault with the administration in print, whenever they please: and therefore you, Mr. Baillff, and as many of your brethren in the borough as can write and read, may publish pamphlets, and "lay them before the queen and ministry," to show your utter dislike of all their proceedings; and for this reason, because you "can certainly see and apprehend, with your own eyes and understanding, those dangers which the ministers do not."
One thing I am extremely concerned about, that Mr. Steele resolves, as he tells you, p. 46, when he comes into the house, "to follow no leaders, but vote according to the dictates of his conscience." He must, at that rate, be a very useless member to his party, unless his conscience he already cut out and shaped for their service, which I am ready to believe it is, if I may have leave to judge from the whole tenour of his life. I would only have his friends be cautious, not to reward him too liberally: for, as it was said of Cranmer, "Do the archbishop an ill turn, and he is your friend for ever." So I do affirm of your member, "Do Mr. Steele a good turn, and he is your enemy forever."
I had like to let slip a very trivial matter which I should be sorry to have done. In reading this pamphlet, I observed several mistakes, but knew not whether to impute them to the author or printer; till, turning to the end, I found there was only one erratum, thus set down, "Pag. 45, line 28, for admonition read advertisement. This (to imitate Mr. Steele's propriety of speech) is a very old practice among new writers, to make a wilful mistake, and then put it down as an erratum. The word is brought in upon this occasion, to convince all the world that he was not guilty of ingratitude, by reflecting on the queen when he was actually under salary, as the Examiner affirms; he assures you, he "had resigned and divested himself of all, before he would presume to write any thing which was so apparently an admonition to those employed in her majesty's service." In case the Examiner should find fault with this word, he might appeal to the erratum; and having formerly been gazetteer, he conceived he might very safely venture to advertise.
You are to understand, Mr. Bailiff, that in the great rebellion against king Charles I, there was a distinction found out between the personal and political capacity of the prince; by the help of which, those rebels professed to fight for the king, while the great guns were discharging against Charles Stuart. After the same manner, Mr. Steele distinguishes between the personal and political prerogative. He does not care to trust this jewel "to the will, and pleasure, and passion, of her majesty," p. 48. If I am not mistaken, the crown jewels cannot be alienated by the prince; but I always thought the prince could wear them during his reign, else they had as good be in the hands of the subject: so, I conceive, her majesty may and ought to wear the prerogative; that it is hers during life; and she ought to be so much the more careful, neither to soil nor diminish it, for that very reason, because it is by law unalienable. But what must we do with this prerogative, according to the notion of Mr. Steele? It must not be trusted with the queen, because Providence has given her will, pleasure, and passion. Her ministers must not act by the authority of it; for then Mr. Steele will cry out, "What? Are majesty and ministry consolidated? and must there be no distinction between the one and the other?" p. 46. He tells you, p. 48, "The prerogative attends the crown;" and therefore, I suppose, must lie in the Tower, to be shown for twelvepence; but never produced, except at a coronation, or passing an act. "Well, but," says he, "a whole ministry may be impeached and condemned by the house of commons, without the prince's suffering by it." And what follows? Why, therefore, a single burgess of Stockbridge, before he gets into the house, may at any time revile a whole ministry in print, before he knows whether they are guilty of any one neglect of duty, or breach of trust!
I am willing to join issue with Mr. Steele in one particular; which perhaps may give you some diversion. He is taxed, by the Examiner and others, for an insolent expression, that the British nation expects the immediate demolition of Dunkirk. He says, the word expect was meant to the ministry, and not to the queen; "but that, however, for argument sake, he will suppose those words were addressed immediately to the queen." Let me then likewise, for argument sake, suppose a very ridiculous thing, that Mr. Steele were admitted to her majesty's sacred person, to tell his own story, with his letter to you, Mr. Bailiff, in his hand, to have recourse to upon occasion. I think his speech must be in these terms;
"I Richard Steele, publisher of the Tatler and Spectator, late gazetteer, commissioner of stamped papers, and pensioner to your majesty, now burgess elect of Stockbridge, do see and apprehend, with my own eyes and understanding, the imminent danger that attends the delay of the demolition of Dunkirk, which I believe your ministers, whose greater concern it is, do not: for, madam, the thing is not done; my lord treasurer and lord Bolingbroke, my fellow subjects, under whose immediate direction it is, are careless, and overlook it, or something worse; I mean, they design to sell it to France, or make use of it to bring in the pretender. This is clear, from their suffering Mr. Tugghe's memorial to be published without punishing the printer. Your majesty has told us, that the equivalent for Dunkirk is already in the French King's hands; therefore all obstacles are removed on the part of France; and I, though a mean fellow, give your majesty to understand, in the best method I can take, and from the sincerity of my grateful heart, that the British nation expects the immediate demolition of Dunkirk; as you hope to preserve your person, crown, and dignity, and the safety and welfare of the people committed to your charge."
I have contracted such a habit of treating princes familiarly, by reading the pamphlets of Mr. Steele and his fellows, that I am tempted to suppose her majesty's answer to this speech might be as follows:
"Mr. Richard Steele, late gazetteer. &c.
"I do not conceive that any of your titles empower you to be my director, or to report to me the expectations of my people. I know their expectations better than you; they love me, and will trust me. My ministers were of my own free choice; I have found them wise and faiihful; and whoever calls them fools or knaves, designs indirectly an affront to myself. I am under no obligations to demolish Dunkirk, but to the most christian king; if you come here as an orator from that prince to demand it in his name, where are your powers? If not, let it suffice you to know, that I have my reasons for deferring it; and that the clamours of a faction, shall not be a rule, by which I or my servants are to proceed."
Mr. Steele tells you, "his adversaries are so unjust, they will not take the least notice of what led him into the necessity of writing his letter to the Guardian." And how is it possible, any mortal should know all his necessities? Who can guess, whether this necessity were imposed on him by his superiours, or by the itch of party, or by the mere want of other matter to furnish out a Guardian?
But Mr. Steele "has had a liberal education, and knows the world as well as the ministry does, and will therefore speak on, whether he offends them or no, and though their clothes be ever so new; when he thinks his queen and country is (or, as a grammarian would express it, are) ill-treated," p. 50.
It would be good to hear Mr. Steele explain himself upon this phrase of "knowing the world;" because it is a science which maintains abundance of pretenders. Every idle young rake, who understands how to pick up a wench, or bilk a hackney coachman, or can call the players by their names, and is acquainted with five or six faces in the chocolate-house, will needs pass for a man that "knows the world." In the like manner Mr. Steele, who, from some few sprinklings of rudimental literature, proceeded a gentleman of the horse guards, thence by several degrees to be an ensign and an alchemist, where he was wholly conversant with the lower part of mankind, thinks he "knows the world" as well as the prime minister; and, upon the strength of that knowledge, will needs direct her majesty in the weightiest matters of government.
And now, Mr. Bailiff, give me leave to inform you that this long letter of Mr. Steele, filled with quotations and a clutter about Dunkirk, was wholly written for the sake of the six last pages, taken up in vindicating himself directly, and vilifying the queen and ministry by innuendoes. He apprehends, that "some representations have been given of him in your town, as, that a man of so small a fortune as he, must have secret views or supports, which could move him to leave his employments, &c." p. 56. He answers, by owning "he has indeed very particular views; for he is animated in his conduct by justice and truth, and benevolence to mankind," p. 57. He has given up his employments, because "he values no advantages above the conveniences of life, but as they tend to the service of the publick." It seems, he could not "serve the publick" as a pensioner, or commissioner of stamped paper; and therefore gave them up, to sit in parliament, "out of charity to his country, and to contend for liberty," p. 58. He has transcribed the common places of some canting moralist de contemptu mundi, & fuga seculi; and would put them upon you as rules derived from his own practice.
Here is a most miraculous and sudden reformation, which I believe can hardly be matched in history, or legend. And Mr. Steele, not unaware how slow the world was of belief, has thought fit to anticipate all objection; he foresees that "prostituted pens will entertain a pretender to such reformations with a recital of his own faults and infirmities; but he is prepared for such usage, and gives himself up to all nameless authors, to be treated as they please," p. 59.
It is certain, Mr. Bailiff, that no man breathing can pretend to have arrived at such a sublime pitch of virtue, as Mr. Steele, without some tendency in the world to suspend at least their belief of the fact, till time and observation shall determine. But, I hope, few writers will be so prostitute as to trouble themselves with "the faults and infirmities" of Mr. Steele's past life, with what he somewhere else calls "the sins of his youth," and in one of his late papers, confesses to have been numerous enough. A shifting scambling scene of youth, attended with poverty and ill company, may put a man of no ill inclinations upon many extravagancies, which, as soon as they are left off, are easily pardoned and forgotten. Besides, I think, popish writers tell us, that the greatest sinners make the greatest saints; but so very quick a sanctification, and carried to so prodigious a height, will be apt to rouse the suspicion of infidels, especially when they consider that this pretence of his to so romantick a virtue, is only advanced by way of solution to that difficult problem, "Why he has given up his employments?" And according to the new philosophy, they will endeavour to solve it by some easier and shorter way. For example, the question is put, Why Mr. Steele gives up his employment and pension at this juncture? I must here repeat, with some enlargement, what I said before on this head. These unbelieving gentlemen will answer,
First, That a new commission was every day expected for the stamped paper, and he knew his name would be left out; and therefore his resignation would be an appearance of virtue cheaply bought.
Secondly, He dreaded the violence of creditors, against which his employments were no manner of security.
Thirdly, Being a person of great sagacity, he has some foresight of a change, from the usual age of a ministry, which is now almost expired; from the little misunderstandings that have been reported sometimes to happen among the men in power; from the bill of commerce being rejected, and from some horrible expectations, wherewith his party have been deceiving themselves and their friends abroad for about two years past.
Fourthly, He hopes to come into all the perquisites of his predecessor Ridpath, and be the principal writer of his faction, where every thing is printed by subscription, which will amply make up the loss of his place.
But it may be still demanded, why he affects those exalted strains of piety and resignation? To this I answer, with great probability, that he has resumed his old pursuits after the philosopher's stone, toward which it is held by all adepts for a most essential ingredient, that a man must seek it merely for the glory of God, and without the least desire of being rich.
Mr. Steele is angry, p. 60, that some of our friends have been reflected on in a pamphlet, because they left us in a point of the greatest consequence; and upon that account, he runs into their panegyrick, against his conscience, and the interest of his cause, without considering that those gentlemen have reverted to us again. The case is thus: he never would have praised them if they had remained firm, nor should we have railed at them. The one is full as honest, and as natural, as the other. However, Mr. Steele hopes (I beg you, Mr. Bailiff, to observe the consequence) that notwithstanding this pamphlet's reflecting on some tories who opposed the treaty of commerce, "the ministry will see Dunkirk effectually demolished."
Mr. Steele says something in commendation of the queen; but stops short, and tells you (if I take his meaning right) "that he shall leave what he has to say on this topick, till he and her majesty are both dead," p. 61. Thus, he defers his praises, as he does his debts, after the manner of the druids, to be paid in another world. If I have ill interpreted him, it is his own fault, for studying cadence instead of propriety, and filling up niches with words before he has adjusted his conceptions to them. One part of the queen's character is this, "that all the hours of her life are divided between the exercises of devotion, and taking minutes of the sublime affairs of her government." Now, if the business of Dunkirk be one of the "sublime affairs of her majesty's government," I think we ought to be at ease; or else she "takes her minutes" to little purpose. No, says Mr. Steele, the queen is a lady; and unless a prince will now and then get drunk with his ministers, "he cannot learn their interests or humours," p. 6l.; but, this being by no means proper for a lady, she can know nothing but what they think fit to tell her when they are sober. And therefore " all the fellow subjects" of these ministers must watch their motions, and "be very solicitous for what passes beyond the ordinary rules of government;" ibid. For while we are foolishly "relying upon her majesty's virtues," these ministers are "taking the advantage of increasing the power of France."
There is a very good maxim, I think it is neither whig nor tory, "that the prince can do no wrong;" which, I doubt, is often applied to very ill purposes. A monarch of Britain is pleased to create a dozen peers, and to make a peace; both these actions are (for instance) within the undisputed prerogative of the crown, and are to be reputed, and submitted to, as the actions of the prince: but, as a king of England is supposed to be guided, in matters of such importance, by the advice of those he employs in his councils; whenever a parliament thinks fit to complain of such proceedings, as a publick grievance, then this maxim takes place, that the prince can do no wrong, and the advisers are called to account. But shall this empower such an individual as Mr. Steele, in his tatling or pamphleteering capacity, to fix "the ordinary rules of government," or to affirm that her ministers, upon the security of her majesty's goodness, are labouring for the grandeur of France?" What ordinary rule of government is transgressed by the queen's delaying the demolition of Dunkirk? or what addition is thereby made to the grandeur of France? Every tailor in your corporation is as much a fellow subject as Mr. Steele: and do you think, in your conscience, that every tailor of Stockbridge is fit to direct her majesty and her ministers in "the sublime aflairs of her government?"
But he persists in it, "that it is no manner of diminution of the wisdom of a prince, that he is obliged to act by the information of others." The sense is admirable; and the interpretation is this, that what a man is forced to "is no diminution of his wisdom." But, if he would conclude from this sage maxim, that, because a prince "acts by the information of others," therefore those actions may lawfully be traduced in print by every fellow subject; I hope there is no man in England so much a whig as to be of his opinion.
Mr. Steele concludes his letter to you, with a story about king William and his French dog-keeper, "who gave that prince a gun loaden only with powder, and then pretended to wonder how his majesty could miss his aim: which was no argument against the king's reputation for shooting very finely." This he would have you apply, by allowing her majesty to be a wise prince, but deceived by wicked counsellors, who are in the interest of France. Her majesty's aim was peace: which, I think, she has not missed; and God be thanked, she has got it, without any more expense, either of shot or powder. Her dogkeepers, for some years past, had directed her gun against her friends, and at last loaded it so deep, that it was in danger to burst in her hands.
You may please to observe, that Mr. Steele calls this dogkeeper a minister; which, with humble submission, is a gross impropriety of speech. The word is derived from the Latin, where it properly signifies a servant; but in English is never made use of otherwise than to denominate those who are employed in the service of church or state: so that the appellation, as he directs it, is no less absurd, than it would be for you, Mr. Bailiff, to send your apprentice for a pot of ale, and give him the title of your envoy: to call a petty constable a magistrate, or the common hangman a minister of justice. I confess, when I was choqued at this word in reading the paragraph, a gentleman offered his conjecture, that it might possibly be intended for a reflection, or jest: but, if there be any thing farther in it than a want of understanding our language, I take it to be only a refinement upon the old levelling principle of the whigs. Thus, in their opinion, a dogkeeper is as much a minister as any secretary of state: and thus Mr. Steele and my lord treasurer are both fellow subjects. I confess, I have known some ministers, whose birth, or qualities, or both, were such, that nothing but the capriciousness of fortune, and the iniquity of the times, could ever have raised them above the station of dogkeepers; and to whose administration I should be loth to entrust a dog I had any value for: because, by the rule of proportion, they who treated their prince like a slave, would have used their fellow subjects like dogs; and yet how they would treat a dog, I can find no similitude to express; yet, I well remember, they maintained a large number, whom they taught to fawn upon themselves, and bark at their mistress. However, while they were in service, I wish they had only kept her majesty's dogs, and not been trusted with her guns. And thus much by way of comment upon this worthy story of king William and his dogkeeper.
I have now, Mr. Bailiff, explained to you all the difficult parts in Mr. Steele's letter. As for the importance of Dunkirk, and when it shall be demolished, or whether it shall be demolished or not; neither he, nor you, nor I, have any thing to do in the matter. Let us all say what we please, her majesty, will think herself the best judge, and her ministers the best advisers: neither has Mr. Steele pretended to prove, that any law, ecclesiastical or civil, statute or common, is broken, by keeping Dunkirk undemolished, so long as the queen shall think it best for the service of herself and her kingdoms; and it is not altogether impossible, that there may be some few reasons of state, which have not been yet communicated to Mr. Steele. I am, with respect to the borough and yourself,
Your most humble and
most obedient servant, &c.
- Thomas Broderick, esq.
- Thus, in the first edition, the name was constantly contracted.
- Sir Richard Steele was one of the last eminent men who entertained hopes of being successful in the pursuit of the Philosopher's stone. His laboratory (as I have been assured by the late George Stevens, esq.) was at Poplar, a village near London; and is now converted into a garden-house.
- Mr. Steele altered this word in his second edition.
- See The Guardian, No 53.
- This expressive word, from the French choquer, has not yet found admission in the best of our English dictionaries: nor do any of Dr. Johnson's definitions of the common verb choke come up to the idea in which choqued is used above.