Cato's Letter No. 129

The same Address continued.

Thomas Gordon (Saturday, May 18, 1723)


You are abused: You are blindly governed by certain chiefs, who can have no view but to dispose of you; to make sale of you for their own proper advantage. By prating pedants, and disaffected monks, and by party cries, and party revelling, and hogsheads of October, you are brought to adore this duke, that lord, and the other knight or squire; and to think the publick undone, unless it be under the sole management of these your idols, who would effectually undo it. They once had places: Had you then more money, more trade, more land and liberty, by any wise or virtuous conduct of theirs, than you have now? And did they not take that opportunity of your generous confidence in them, to betray you basely to France and the Pretender? And have they not ever since been labouring, by plots and rebellion, to accomplish that which, from the shortness of their reign, and the sudden change, they could not then accomplish by power?

Power and places are still their only aim: And to come at them, you see, they would make war upon heaven and earth, and involve you in blood and popery. But you cannot all have places, Gentlemen: Your only ambition ought to be the security of your property, and to live like freemen. And are you not free? Is not your property secure? or can these men accomplish their designs and conspiracies, but at the expence of your estates and your freedom? They seek their own grandeur, and all their advantages, from your ruin and servitude. You must pay the whole and long reckoning at last. You must fill the empty coffers of new shoals of banditti who must be rewarded out of your pockets for their villainous merit and pretended sufferings. You will have a whole and black flight of harpies to glut, who with ravenous and unhallowed claws will devour your substance, and your childrenís bread. All foreign debts, all the demands of Spain and Rome, will be brought upon you for payment; and all that you have will be too little to satiate needy traitors, whom you madly want to save your all; which is not touched, nor can be hurt, but by them, and is but too little to defend you from them.

Think you to be then without armies? No: Instead of occasional troops, which their wicked plots and devices, and your own disaffection, have brought upon you, you will see your country and your houses filled with popish armies, perhaps foreign popish armies. You will be told, that Protestant and English ones, which already betrayed the father, will betray the son, and cannot be trusted: That your frequent rebellions render you unfit to be relied on; and that if you turned out a Protestant prince, whom you yourselves called in, you will be apt, upon the least disgust or caprice, to turn out your hereditary King, as you did his father.

Think you that your present debts will be cancelled, and your taxes made easy? No; your taxes and your funds will be continued: But, instead of being applied, as they are, to pay off lawful debts contracted for your security, they will be seized by this new government, and called lawful prize. It will be said, That they were given to keep out your lawful king, and ought to be made use of to keep him in: That if you were so prodigal of your wealth for the support of rebellion and faction, can you refuse these revenues, which are now no longer your own, but in possession of the enemies of the establishment, who chiefly gained them at first by stock-jobbing and extortion, and now keep them as the prizes of disloyalty and treason; can you refuse these revenues (so ill got, and as ill applied) to secure your lineal government, founded upon a long succession of your natural princes? These revenues therefore, which are now your property, and the property of your neighbours and relations, will then be united to the crown, fix an absolute power there, and entail lasting and irretrievable slavery upon yourselves and your posterity, and destroy at one blow the whole property and trade of three great kingdoms. At present, if prudent methods be taken (which surely necessity must at last make us take) these great debts may be paid honestly off, and we again see ourselves a happy and disengaged people. But upon such a dreadful turn as the conspirators intended, they will be thrown into a free gift, and your taxes will be made perpetual, to perpetuate your slavery.

Do you expect any redress of any kind from such a Parliament as can then be chosen, if any be chosen? No; hope it not. All that would serve you faithfully in it, will be called enemies and traitors to the new, and friends to the late rebellious establishment. Such therefore will not dare to offer themselves to your choice; and, if they did, would be mobbed, or imprisoned. You must choose only such as are recommended to you, the ragged and famished tribe that are brought over; men of desperate fortunes, the beggarly plotters against your present happiness, fiery and implacable bigots, half papists, engaged malcontents, or rapacious vultures; all gaping for prey, all determined to every measure of oppression, and to sacrifice you and your country to their ambition and want. You will then find time for repentance, when it is too late, when all the grievances which you now so wantonly complain of will fall upon you in earnest, and an hundred fold, without hope of remedy or end.

Nor can this blessed condition be brought upon you, but after the horrid prelude of a long and cruel civil war. You will first see your country in blood, your cities burnt, your houses plundered, your cattle taken from you, your stocks consumed by dragoons, and your sons, your neighbours, and relations, murdered before your faces. Flatter not yourselves, that his Majesty will easily quit the many thousands of his subjects, who will certainly and resolutely stand by him; or that he will want the assistance of all the foreign powers who are interested in his establishment, or even in making this great kingdom wretched, impotent, and poor. No, Gentlemen, you will have armies of Germans and of Dutch poured in upon you on one side, Spaniards and Russians on the other, and perhaps French on both sides. Irish papists will come over in shoals; Hosts of Highlanders will fall like snow from the north; and all the necessitous, the debauched, the ambitious, the rapacious, the extravagant, and the revengeful, amongst yourselves, will think these your calamities their harvest: They will banquet in your plunder; and for a share of you, will greedily join to devour you. Is this a condition like that which you now enjoy?

How would you like to see your churches dressed up like toyshops; to see vermin of various fashions, shapes, and colours, crawling about in them, antickly dressed up in an hundred fantastical garments; to see the same vermin, at other times, filling and polluting your streets, haunting your houses, debauching and corrupting your wives, perverting your children, devouring your substance, and lording it over you? You will hardly know, thus transmogrified, the old faces which you have been used to, the faces of those impious wretches, who would bring all these frightful mischiefs upon you. That they are ready and prepared for this ungodly change, is evident from their maintaining and asserting all the vilest and most formidable tenets of popery; and by their uniting in all the traitorous intrigues, in all the basest and bloodiest councils of papists. But that the papists would protect or prefer them afterwards, is more than doubtful: It is not likely, that they will trust those whom by experience they know no trust can bind. They know that those who have betrayed you, and a King who has protected and preferred them, will betray also even papists. They know, that neither religion, nor conscience, not honesty, nor hardship, has any share in their present disaffection, which has its whole root in pride and avarice, and the lust of rapine and power; and that they will in a moment turn upon them as soon as the first preferments go by them, or they cannot all catch the preferments and wealth which they so immoderately thirst after.

Your present deceivers, therefore, will not then be trusted. All ecclesiastical prizes will be the prizes of foreign ecclesiasticks, or of those who have been ever staunch Catholics at home. The others will be left to certain contempt, beggary, and if possible to shame. It will not be forgot what servile adoration they paid, what hollow compliments they made, to the late King James; adoration that bordered upon blasphemy! Compliments that interfered with the incommunicable attributes of God! And how faithlessly, how readily, afterwards they betrayed him, when all his favours did not fall in their lap, and as soon as they found that for them alone his tyranny was not exerted. It will be remembered how cheerfully, or rather how revengefully, they ran into the Revolution; and when they could not engross the whole advantages of it, and could not make King William their instrument and bully, how they were continually libelling King William and the Revolution, continually prating, preaching, and plotting against both, notwithstanding their constant oaths, their constant abjurations and imprecations.

For Godís sake, Gentlemen, think what you are doing: Your lives, your estates, your religion, your conscience, your trade, your country, your honour, are all at stake, and you are wantonly throwing them all away; you are pursuing a false and miserable shadow; and it would be happy for you, were it only a shadow: In reality, you are going to catch in your embraces, superstition, beggary, and servitude. I approve your love and pursuit of liberty, which ever was, and ever will be, a grateful and charming sound in my ears; and I will be always ready to lead you, or to follow you, in that virtuous and noble pursuit. This is wisdom! This is honour! But honour is to be acquired by honourable means, and not by rapine, perjury, and murder.

I thank God, we have yet the means left within our constitution to save ourselves. We have, in spite of malice and contumelies, an excellent, meek, and benevolent prince, who has in no one instance of his reign attempted to strain his prerogative above the laws; which we defy his bitterest enemies to say of the best of their favourite kings, his predecessors. He has every disposition to make a people great and happy, and will be always ready to gratify them in every thing that they can reasonably ask for their security. But if we would make ourselves secure, we must make him secure. It cannot be denied, but there have been some excesses of power, and that we have suffered under many publick calamities: None of them are, however, imputable to him; but to the corruption and intrigues of those who betrayed him and us, and to the constant conspiracies of traitors, which deterred honester men from a severe animadversion upon their crimes, when they saw them pursued by those who rejoiced in those crimes, with no design to rectify abuses, but to inflame discontents.

To whom, Gentlemen, do we owe all our present debts and misfortunes? Even to those who opposed all the measures for raising effectual supplies in the first war, and ended the second by a scandalous peace, which left us in insecurity and danger, and made more taxes and more debts necessary to our security. To whom, as I have observed in a former paper, do we owe standing armies, such frequent suspensions of the habeas corpus bill, and so many consuming pensions? Even to those, who, by their constant plots, conspiracies, and rebellions, have given occasions, or pretences, for these great evils and excesses. And now that they have brought all these mischiefs, and many more, upon us, and forced the government upon measures which perhaps would not have been thought of, certainly would not have been complied with, they would impudently throw upon his Majesty the burdens and imputations, which they alone ought to bear, and impiously dethrone him, and undo their country, for their own crimes.

You are born, Gentlemen, to liberty; and from it you derive all the blessings which you possess. Pray, what affection have these your leaders ever shewn to the cause of liberty? It is plain that they have never taken the sacred sound into their mouths, but to profane it; nor pretended to cherish it, but in order to destroy it, and make it an unnatural ladder to tyranny. As often as dominion has been in their own hands, liberty became a crime, and a sign of sedition; and as often as they wanted to destroy power, that is, as often as they were out of it, they prostituted the spirit of liberty to the service of treason. Hence their late cries for liberty, to animate you against a government that protected it; and under the pretence of affecting liberty, to introduce a tyranny that would destroy the soul, body and property. They could, however, have made no dangerous progress in this mischief and hypocrisy, if those who have always professed, and whose interest it would have been always to have supported and practised, free and beneficent principles, had not deserted those principles, and armed by that desertion the enemies to all that is good and virtuous, with an opportunity of turning liberty upon herself. Let the real friends to the government support the maxims upon which it stands, and upon which only it can stand, and they have nothing to fear from the well or ill-grounded popularity of its enemies.

Such, Gentlemen, are your leaders, and such are the grievances which they cause, and complain of: To cure them, they would introduce the compleatest and most comprehensive of all, a total overthrow of church and state. They have reduced us to unhappy circumstances; but let us not make them infinitely worse, and destroy ourselves for relief; let us not, like silly and peevish children, throw away what we are in possession of, to attain what is out of our power, and which attained would undo us: Let us put on resolutions suitable to our present condition. Let all honest men join with the greatest unanimity in all measures to preserve his Majesty and our establishment; and then we may rest assured, that his Majesty will do every thing to preserve us. We may then ask with confidence, and he will give with pleasure. When the kingdom is in this desirable calm and security, we shall not need so many troops, nor will his Majesty desire them. We may lessen the publick expences, pay off gradually the publick debts, increase the trade, wealth, and power of the nation, and be again a rich, easy, and flourishing people.

I cannot help persuading myself, that the gentlemen at present in the administration, who have observed and condemned so justly the fatal and unsuccessful measures taken by some of their predecessors, the terrible consequences that have flowed from them, and the dreadful advantages that they gave to the common enemies of his Majesty, of themselves, and of us all, are already convinced, that there is no possibility of preserving our happy establishment long, but by gaining and caressing the people, by making them easy and happy, by letting them find their account in his Majestyís reign; and by giving no handles for just reproach, or pretences for contumely, to those who would make no other use of them but to destroy us all.

G I am, &c.

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