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preside over works of genius. An “ Inquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful” had long engaged his attention, and exercised his pen. It may be considered as a hive where this Attic bee was studiously collecting the sweets of ancient and modern composition. His intention was to bring it out in the beginning of the year 1756; but the noise at that time excited by lord BOLINGBROKE's posthumous works induced Mr. BURKE to keep back for a few months his favorite effay, and to make his debut, or first appearance before the literary world, in the character of the deceased nobleman.* He foon
put the fagacity of critics to the proof by a pamphlet entitled “ A Vindication of natural Society; or a View of the Miseries and Evils arising to Mankind from every Species of artificial Society, in a letter to lord *** by a late noble Writer.”
To the first edition was prefixed a curious advertisement in these words : “ The following letter appears to have been written about the year 1748, and the person to whom it is addressed need not be pointed out. As it is probable the noble writer had no design that it should ever appear in public, this will account for his having kept no copy of. it, and consequently for its not appearing among the rest of his works. By what means it came into the hands of the editor is not at all material to the public, any further than as such an account might tend to authenticate the genuineness of it, and for this it was thought it might safely rely on its own internal evidence."
An air of authenticity was spread over the whole performance, The stile and manner of the supposed original were hit off with so
• He had affitted his friend Mr. WILLIAM BURKE in writing the History of the European Colonies in America, which came out in 1751; but as that was a joint production, it cannot be allowed the first place in the catalogue of his own genuine compositions.
inuch exactness as to deceive at first sight some very good judges. The richness of imagery, the declamatory ardor, the impetuous and overbearing eloquence, in a word, all the characteristical beauties and defects of BOLING BROKE appeared in every page of this admirable counterfeit. To aspire to notice by an imitation of fo eminent a writer was certainly a bold attempt: but the young eagle felt his own strength of pinion: he soared aloft on daring wing: he viewed the fun with undazzled eye; and thewed himself able to bear the bolt of heaven in his
pounces. When Mr. Burke thought proper to undeceive the public, he said, the design of his pamphlet was to demonstrate that the fame engines, which were employed for the destruction of religion, might be employed with equal success for the subversion of
government; and that it was more easy to maintain a wrong cause, or give a glofs to ingenious fallhoods, than to establish a doubtful truth by solid argument. In this specimen of the abuse of reason, as he calls it, he takes a glance at the condition of mankind in a state of nature, subject to many and great inconveniencies. “Want of union,” says he, “ want of mutual assistance, want of a common arbitrator to resort to in their differences---these were evils, which they could not but have felt pretty severely on many occafions. The original children of the earth lived with their brethren of the other kinds in much equality. Their diet must have been confined almost wholly to the vegetable kind; and the same tree, which in its flourishing state produced them berries, in its decay gave them an habitation. The mutual defires of the sexes uniting their bodies and affections, and the children which were the results of these intercourses, introduced first the notion of society, aud taught its conveniencies. This fociety, founded in natural appetites and instincts, and not in any positive institution, I shall call natural society. Thus far nature went, and succeeded; but
farther. The great error of our nature is, not to know where to stop,---not to be satisfied with any
reasonable acquirement,---not to compound with our condition,---but to lose all we have gained by an insatiable pursuit after more. Man found a considerable advantage by this union of many persons to form one family: he therefore judged that he would find his account proportionably in an union of many families into one body politic; and, as nature has formed no bond of union to hold them together, he supplied this defect by laws. This is political society"; and hence the sources of what are usually called states, civil societies, or governments, into some form of which, more extended or restrained, all mankind have gradually fallen."
After a few remarks on the shocks lately given to the fabric of superstition and of ecclesiastical tyranny, on the glimmerings of light which we began to see through the chinks and breaches of our prison, and on the refreshing airs of liberty which we felt, he proceeds to inquire from history and experience, whether civil government be such a protector from natural evils, and such a nurse and increase of blessings, as those of warm imaginations promise. He first considers the external relation which states bear to each other in point of friendship or enmity, and asserts, that the good offices done by one nation to its neighbour, or the mutual returns of kindness and civility between them, fince the earliest period of their intercourse, would not aiiord matter enough to fill ten pages; but that war was the eternal subject of history, ---that the first accounts we had of mankind were but so many accounts of their butcheries, ---that all empires had been cemented in blood, ---and that, when the race of mankind began first to form themselves into parties and combinations, the first effect of the combination, and indeed the end for which it seemed purpolely formed and best calculated, was their mutual destruction..
In support of these assertions, he enters into a detail of historical evidence. He begins with Sesostris, “ the oldest conqueror on record, opening the scene by the destruction of at least one million of his species, unprovoked but by his ambition, without any motives but pride, cruelty, and madness, and without any benefit to himself; but solely to make so many people, in the most distant countries, feel experimentally, how levere a scourge Providence intends for the human race, when he gives to one man the power over many, and arms his naturally impotent and feeble rage with the hands of millions, who know no common principle of action, but a blind obedience to the passions of their ruler.”
The next personage, whom he describes as figuring in the tragedies of this ancient theatre, is SEMIRAMIS. She carried on many wars; but he supposes, that in the expedition only against the Indians “ three millions of souls expired, with all the horrid and shocking circumstances which attend all wars, and in a quarrel, in which none of the sufferers could have the least rational concern."
Pursuing these calculations of human carnage, he looks upon it as an undeniable inference from general history, “ that the Babylonian, Assyrian, Median, and Persian monarchies must have poured out seas of blood in their formation and in their destruction. The Persian empire alone, in its wars against the Greeks and Scythians, threw away at least four millions of its subjects. These were their losses abroad, but the war was brought home to them, first by AGESILAUS, and afterwards by ALEXANDER. To form the latter hero " no less than twelve hundred thousand lives must have been sacrificed; but no fuoner had he fallen himself a sacrifice to his vices, than a thousand breaches were made
for ruin to enter, and give the last hand to this scene of misery and destruction. His kingdom was rent and divided; which served to employ the more distinct parts to tear each other to pieces, and bury the whole in blood and flaughter. The kings of Syria and of Egypt, the kings of Pergamus and Macedon, without intermiflion worried each other for above two hundred years ; until at last a strong power arising in the west rushed in upon them, and silenced their tumults, by involving all the contending parties in the same destruction. It is little to say, that the contentions between the successors of ALEXANDER depopulated that part of the world of at least two millions.”
A just observation is here made on the frantic and bloody disputes of the different states of Greece among themselves for an unprofitable superiority. It is, indeed, astonishing how so small a spot could furnish men sufficient to sacrifice to the pitiful ambi. tion of possessing five or fix thousand more acres, or two or three more villages. Yet, in contests for such objects ---in the alternate horrors of foreign war and intestine division, Greece consumed no less than three millions of her inhabitants. Sicily is also very properly represented as “ a field of blood,” whilst the mode of its government was controverted between opposite parties, and the possession struggled for by the natives, the Greeks, the Carthaginians and the Romans. Every page of its history was blotted and confounded by tumults, rebellions, massacres, assassinations, proscriptions, and a series of horror beyond the histories perhaps of any other nation in the world, though all made
of similar matter. The Daughters in this little island are: reckoned at two millions, and those in Grecia Magna at half that number, both estimates being presumed to fall far short of the reality.