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OU are pleased to call again, and with fome
my on the late pro
ceedings in France. I will not give you reafon to imagine, that I think my fentiments of fuch value as to with myself to be folicited about them. They are of too little confequence to be very anxiously either communicated or withheld. It was from attention to you, and to you only, that I hesitated at the time, when you firft defired to receive them. In the first letter I had the honour to write to you, and which at length I fend, I wrote neither for nor from any description of men; nor fhall I in this. My errors, if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to answer for them.
You fee, Sir, by the long letter I have tranfmitted to you, that, though I do moft heartily wifh that France may be animated by a spirit of rational liberty, and that I think you bound, in all honeft policy, tb provide a permanent body, in which that spirit may refide, and an effectual organ, by which it may act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubts concerning feveral material points in your late transactions,
You imagined, when you wrote laft, that I might poffibly be reckoned among the approvers of certain proceedings in France, from the folemn public feal of fanction they have received from two clubs of gentlemen in London, called the Conftitutional Society, and the Revolution Society...
I certainly have the honour to belong to more clubs than one, in which the conftitution of this kingdom, and the principles of the glorious revolution, are held in high reverence: and I reckon myfelf among the moft forward in my zeal for maintaining that conftitution and thofe principles in their utmost purity and vigour. It is becaufe I do fo, that I think it neceffary for me, that there fhould be no mistake. Thofe who cultivate the memory of our revolution, and those who are attached to the conftitution of this kingdom, will take good care how they are involved with perfons who, under the pretext of zeal towards the revolution and conflitution, too frequently wander from their true principles; and are ready on every occafion to depart from the firm but cautious and deliberate fpirit which produced the one, and which prefides in the other, Before I procced to anfwer the more material particulars in your letter, I fhall beg leave to give you fuch information as I have been able to obtain of the two clubs which have thought proper, as bodies, to interfere in the concerns of France; firft affuring you, that I am not, and that I have never been, a member of either of those focieties.
The first, calling itself the Conftitutional Society, or Society for Constitutional Information, or by fome fuch title, is, I believe, of feven or eight years ftanding. The inftitution of this fociety appears to be of a charitable, and fo far of a laudable, nature: it was intended for the circulation, at the expence of the members, of many books, which few others would be at the expence of buying; and which might lie on the hands of the bookfellers, to the great lofs of an ufeful body of men, Whether the books fo charitably circulated, were ever as charitably read, is more than I know. Poflibly feveral of them have been exported to France; and, like goods not in requeft here, may with you have found a market.
market. I have heard much talk of the lights to be drawn from books that are fent from hence. What improvements they have had in their paffage (as it is faid fome liquors are meliorated by croffing the fea)I cannot tell: but I never heard a man of common judgment, or the leaft degree of information, fpeak a word in praise of the greater part of the publications circulated by that fociety; nor have their proceedings been accounted, except by fome of themfelves, as of any ferious consequence.
Your national affembly feems to entertain much the fame Opinion that I do of this poor charitable club. As a nation, you referved the whole ftock of your eloquent acknowledgments for the Revolution Society, when their fellows in the Conftitutional were, in equity, entitled to fome fhare. Since you have felected the Revolution Society, as the great object of your national thanks and praises, you will think me excufeable in making its late conduct the fubject of my obfervations. The national affembly of France has given importance to thefe gentlemen by adopting them; and they return the favour, by acting as a committee in England for extending the principles of the national affembly. Henceforward we muft confider them as a kind of privileged perfons; as no inconfiderable members in the diplomatic body. This is one among the revolutions which have given fplendor to obfcurity, and diftinction to undifcerned merit. Until very lately I do not recollect to have heard of this club. I am quite fure that it never occupied a moment of my thoughts; nor, I believe, thofe of any perfon out of their own fet. I find, upon enquiry, thai on the anniversary of the revolution in 1688, a club of diffenters, but of what denomination I know not, have long had the custom of hearing a fermon in one of their churches; and that afterwards they spent the day cheerfully, as other clubs do, at the tavern. But I never
heard that any public measure, or political fyftem, much lefs that the merits of the conftitution of any foreign nation, had been the subject of a formal proceeding at their feftivals; until, to my inexpreffible furprize, I found them in a fort of public capacity, by a congratulatory addrefs, giving an authoritative fanction to the proceedings of the national affembly in France.
In the antient principles and conduct of the club, fo far at least as they were declared, I fee nothing to which I could take exception. I think it very probable, that for fome purpose, new members may have entered among them; and that fome truly christian politicians, who love to difpenfe benefits, but are careful to conceal the hand which diftributes the dole, may have made them the inftruments of their pious defigns. Whatever I may have reason to suspect concerning private management, I fhall fpeak of nothing as of a certainty but what is public.
For one, I fhould be forry to be thought, directly or indirectly, concerned in their proceedings. I certainly take my full fhare, along with the reft of the world, in my individual and private capacity, in speculating on what has been done, or is doing, on the public ftage; in any place antient or modern, in the republic of Rome, or the republic of Paris: but having no general apoftolical miffion, being a citizen of a particular ftate, and being bound up in a confiderable degree, by its public will, I fhould think it at leaft improper and irregular for me to open a formal public correfpondence with the actual government of a foreign nation, without the exprefs authority of the government under which I live.
I should be still more unwilling to enter into that correfpondence, under any thing like an equivocal defcription, which to many, unacquainted with our ufa