The Works of Samuel Johnson in Nine Volumes
Part 6 out of 9
I have been defeated by a man who knows how to use advantages, with so
much moderation, and can enjoy the honour of conquest, without the
insolence of triumph.
It was one of the maxims of the Spartans, not to press upon a flying
army, and, therefore, their enemies were always ready to quit the field,
because they knew the danger was only in opposing. The civility with
which you have thought proper to treat me, when you had incontestable
superiority, has inclined me to make your victory complete, without any
further struggle, and not only publicly to acknowledge the truth of the
charge which you have hitherto advanced, but to confess, without the
least dissimulation, subterfuge, or concealment, every other
interpolation I have made in those authors, which you have not yet had
opportunity to examine.
On the sincerity and punctuality of this confession, I am willing to
depend for all the future regard of mankind, and cannot but indulge some
hopes, that they, whom my offence has alienated from me, may, by this
instance of ingenuity and repentance, be propitiated and reconciled.
Whatever be the event, I shall, at least, have done all that can be done
in reparation of my former injuries to Milton, to truth, and to mankind;
and entreat that those who shall continue implacable, will examine their
own hearts, whether they have not committed equal crimes, without equal
proofs of sorrow, or equal acts of atonement.
 The interpolations are distinguished by inverted commas.
PASSAGES INTERPOLATED IN MASENIUS.
The word "pandemonium," in the marginal notes of
Book i. Essay, page 10.
Citation 6. Essay, page 38.
Annuit ipsa Dolo, malumque (heu! longa dolendi
Materies! et triste nefas!) vesana momordit,
Tanti ignara mali. Mora nulla: solutus avernus
Exspuit infandas acies; fractumque remugit,
Divulsa compage, solum: Nabathaea receptum
Regna dedere sonum, Pharioque in littore Nercus
Territus erubuit: simul aggemuere dolentes
Hesperiae valles, Libyaeque calentis arenae
Exarsere procul. Stupefacta Lycaonis ursa
Constitit, et pavido riguit glacialis in axe:
Omnis cardinibus submotus inhorruit orbis;
"Angeli hoc efficiunt, coelestia jussa secuti."
Citation 7. Essay, page 41.
Ilia quidem fugiens, sparsis per terga capillis,
Ora rigat lacrimis, et coelum questibus implet:
Talia voce rogans. Magni Deus arbiter orbis!
Qui rerum momenta tenes, solusque futuri
Praescius, elapsique memor: quem terra potentem
Imperio, coelique tremunt; quem dite superbus
Horrescit Phlegethon, pavidoque furore veretur:
En! Styge crudeli premimur. Laxantur hiatus
Tartarei, dirusque solo dominatur Avernus,
"Infernique canes populantur cuncta creata,"
Et manes violant superos: discrimina rerum
Sustulit Antitheus, divumque oppressit honorem.
Respice Sarcotheam: nimis, heu! decepta momordit
Infaustas epulas, nosque omnes prodidit hosti.
Citation 8. Essay, page 42; the whole passage.
"Quadrupedi pugnat quadrupes, volucrique volucris;
Et piscis cum pisce ferox hostilibus armis
Praelia saeva gerit: jam pristina pabula spernunt,
Jam tondere piget viridantes gramine campos:
Alterum et alterius vivunt animalia letho:
Prisca nec in gentem humanam reverentia durat;
Sed fugiunt, vel, si steterant, fera bella minantur
Fronte truci, torvosque oculos jaculantur in illam."
Citation 9. Essay, page 43.
"Vatibus antiquis numerantur lumine cassis,"
Tiresias, "Phineus," Thamyrisque, et magnus Homerus.
The above passage stands thus in Masenius, in one line:
Tiresias caecus, Thamyrisque, et Daphnis, Homerus.
N.B. The verse now cited is in Masenius's poems, but not in the
Citation 10. Essay, page 46.
In medio, turmas inter provectus ovantes
Cernitur Antitheus; reliquis hic altior unus
Eminet, et circum vulgus despectat inane:
Frons nebulis obscura latet, torvumque furorem
Dissimulat, fidae tectus velamine noctis:
"Persimilis turri praecelsae, aut montibus altis
Antique cedro, nudatae frondis honore."
PASSAGES INTERPOLATED IN GROTIUS.
Citation 1. Essay, page 55.
Sacri tonantis hostis, exsul patriae
Coelestis adsum; Tartari tristem specum
Fugiens, et atram noctis aeternae plagam.
Hac spe, quod unum maximum fugio malum,
Superos videbo. Fallor? an certe meo
Concussa tellus tota trepidat pondere?
"Quid dico? Tellus? Orcus et pedibus tremit."
Citation 2. Essay, page 58; the whole passage.
--"Nam, me judice,
Regnare dignum est ambitu, etsi in Tartaro:
Alto praecesse Tartaro siquidem juvat,
Coelis quam in ipsis servi obire munera."
Citation 4. Essay, page 61; the whole passage.
"Innominata quaeque nominibus suis,
Libet vocare propriis vocabulis."
Citation 5. Essay, page 63.
Terrestris orbis rector! et princeps freti!
"Coeli solique soboles; aetherium genus!"
Adame! dextram liceat amplecti tuam!
Citation 6. Essay, _ibid_.
Quod illud animal, tramite obliquo means,
Ad me volutum flexili serpit via?
Sibila retorquet ora setosum caput
Trifidamque linguam vibrat: oculi ardent duo,
"Carbunculorum luce certantes rubra."
Citation 7. Essay, page 65; the whole passage.
--"Nata deo! atque homine sata!
Regina mundi! eademque interitus inscia!
Citation 8. Essay, page 66; the whole passage.
"Rationis etenim omnino paritas exigit,
Ego bruta quando bestia evasi loquens;
Ex homine, qualis ante, te fieri deam."
Citation 9. Essay, _ibid_.
Per sancta thalami sacra, per jus nominis
Quodcumque nostri: sive me natam vocas,
Ex te creatam; sive communi patre
Ortam, sororem; sive potius conjugem:
"Cassam, oro, dulci luminis jubare tui"
Ne me relinquas: nunc tuo auxilio est opus.
Cum versa sors est. Unicum lapsae mihi
Firmamen, unam spem gravi adflictae malo,
Te mihi reserva, dum licet: mortalium
Ne tota soboles pereat unius nece:
"Tibi nam relicta, quo petam? aut aevum exigam?"
Citation 10. Essay, page 67; the whole passage.
"Tu namque soli numini contrarius,
Minus es nocivus; ast ego nocentior,
(Adeoque misera magis, quippe miseriae comes
Origoque scelus est, lurida mater male!)
Deumque laesi scelere, teque, vir! simul."
Citation 11. Essay, page 68; the whole passage.
"Quod comedo, poto, gigno, diris subjacet."
INTERPOLATION IN RAMSAY.
Citation 6. Essay, page 88.
O judex! nova me facies inopinaque terret;
Me maculae turpes, nudaeque in corpore sordes,
Et cruciant duris exercita pectora poenis:
Me ferus horror agit. Mihi non vernantia prata,
Non vitraei fontes, coeli non aurea templa,
Nec sunt grata mihi sub utroque jacentia sole:
Judicis ora dei sic terrent, lancinat aegrum
Sic pectus mihi noxa. O si mi abrumpere vitam,
Et detur poenam quovis evadere letho!
Ipsa parens utinam mihi tellus ima dehiscat!
Ad piceas trudarque umbras, atque infera regna!
"Pallentes umbras Erebi, noctemque profundam!"
Montibus aut premar injectis, coelique ruina!
Ante tuos vultus, tua quam flammantiaque ora
Suspiciam, caput objectem et coelestibus armis!
INTERPOLATIONS IN STAPHORSTIUS.
Citation 3. Essay, page 104.
Foedus in humanis fragili quod sanctius aevo!
Firmius et melius, quod magnificentius, ac quam
Conjugii, sponsi sponsaeque jugalia sacra!
"Auspice te, fugiens alieni subcuba lecti,
Dira libido hominum tota de gente repulsa est:
Ac tantum gregibus pecudum ratione carentum
Imperat, et sine lege tori furibunda vagatur.
Auspice te, quam jura probant, rectumque, piumque,
Filius atque pater, fraterque innotuit: et quot
Vincula vicini sociarunt sanguinis, a te
Nominibus didicere suam distinguere gentem."
Citation 6. Essay, page 109.
Coelestes animae! sublimia templa tenentes,
Laudibus adcumulate deum super omnia magnum!--Tu
quoque nunc animi vis tota ac maxuma nostri!
Tota tui in Domini grates dissolvere laudes!
"Aurora redeunte nova, redeuntibus umbris."
Immensum! augustum! verum! inscrutabile numen!
Summe Deus! sobolesque Dei! concorsque duorum,
Spiritus! aeternas retines, bone rector! habenas,
Per mare, per terras, coelosque, atque unus Jehova
Existens, celebrabo tuas, memorique sonabo
Organico plectro laudes. Te pectore amabo,
"Te primum, et medium, et summum, sed fine carentem,"
O miris mirande modis! ter maxime rerum!
Collustrat terras dum humine Titan Eoo!
INTERPOLATION IN FOX.
Essay, page 116.
Hypocrisis esto, hoc sub Francisci pallio.
Tu Thanate, Martyromastix re et nomine sies.
Hypocrisis esto; hoc sub Francisci pallio,
"Quo tuto tecti sese credunt emori."
INTERPOLATION IN QUINTIANUS.
Essay, page 117.
_Mic._ Cur hue procaci veneris cursu refer?
Manere si quis in sua potest domo,
Habitare numquam curet alienas domos.
_Luc._ Quis non, relicta Tartari nigri domo,
Veniret? Illic summa tenebrarum lues,
Ubi pedor ingens redolet extremum situm.
Hic autem amoena regna, et dulcis quies;
Ubi serenus ridet aeternum dies.
Mutare facile est pondus immensum levi;
"Summos dolores maximisque gaudiis."
 For _facile_, the word _votupe_ was substituted in the Essay.
INTERPOLATION IN BEZA.
Essay, page 119.
Stygemque testor, et profunda Tartari,
Nisi impediret livor, et queis prosequor
Odia supremum numen, atque hominum genus,
Pietate motus hinc patris, et hinc filii,
Possem parenti condolere et filio,
"Quasi exuissem omnem malitiam ex pectore."
INTERPOLATION IN FLETCHER.
Essay, page 124.
Nec tamen aeternos obliti (absiste timere)
Umquam animos, fessique ingentes ponimus iras.
Nec fas; non sic deficimus, nec talia tecum
Gessimus, in coelos olim tua signa secuti.
Est hic, est vitae et magni contemptor Olympi,
Quique oblatam animus lucis nunc respuat aulam,
Et domiti tantum placeat cui regia coeli.
Ne dubita, numquam fractis haec pectora, numquam
Deficient animis: prius ille ingentia coeli
Atria, desertosque aeternae lucis alumnos
Destituens, Erebum admigret noctemque profundam,
Et Stygiis mutet radiantia lumina flammis.
"In promptu caussa est: superest invicta voluntas,
Immortale odium, vindictae et saeva cupido."
INTERPOLATIONS IN TAUBMAN.
Essay, page 132.
Tune, ait, imperio regere omnia solus; et una
Filius iste tuus, qui se tibi subjicit ultro,
Ac genibus minor ad terram prosternit, et offert
Nescio quos toties animi servilis bonores?
Et tamen aeterni proles aeterna Jehovae
Audit ab aetherea luteaque propagine mundi.
("Scilicet hunc natum dixisti cuncta regentem;
Caelitibus regem cunctis, dominumque supremum")
Huic ego sim supplex? ego? quo praestantior alter
Non agit in superis. Mihi jus dabit ille, suum qui
Dat caput alterius sub jus et vincula legum?
Semideus reget iste polos? reget avia terrae?
Me pressum leviore manu fortuna tenebit?
"Et cogar aeternum duplici servire tyranno?"
Haud ita. Tu solus non polles fortibus ausis.
Non ego sic cecidi, nec sic mea fata premuntur,
Ut nequeam relevare caput, colloque superbum
Excutere imperium. Mihi si mea dextra favebit,
Audeo totius mihi jus promittere mundi.
Essay, page 152.
"Throni, dominationes, principatus, virtutes, potestates," is said to be
a line borrowed by Milton from the title-page of Heywood's Hierarchy of
Angels. But there are more words in Heywood's title; and, according to
his own arrangement of his subjects, they should be read thus:--
"Seraphim, cherubim, throni, potestates, angeli, archangeli,
These are my interpolations, minutely traced without any arts of
evasion. Whether from the passages that yet remain, any reader will be
convinced of my general assertion, and allow, that Milton had recourse
for assistance to any of the authors whose names I have mentioned, I
shall not now be very diligent to inquire, for I had no particular
pleasure in subverting the reputation of Milton, which I had myself once
endeavoured to exalt; and of which, the foundation had always
remained untouched by me, had not my credit and my interest been
blasted, or thought to be blasted, by the shade which it cast from its
About ten years ago, I published an edition of Dr. Johnston's
translation of the Psalms, and having procured from the general assembly
of the church of Scotland, a recommendation of its use to the lower
classes of grammar schools, into which I had begun to introduce it,
though not without much controversy and opposition, I thought it likely
that I should, by annual publications, improve my little fortune, and be
enabled to support myself in freedom from the miseries of indigence. But
Mr. Pope, in his malevolence to Mr. Benson, who had distinguished
himself by his fondness for the same version, destroyed all my hopes by
a distich, in which he places Johnston in a contemptuous comparison with
the author of Paradise Lost. From this time, all my praises of
Johnston became ridiculous, and I was censured, with great freedom, for
forcing upon the schools an author whom Mr. Pope had mentioned only as a
foil to a better poet. On this occasion, it was natural not to be
pleased, and my resentment seeking to discharge itself somewhere, was
unhappily directed against Milton. I resolved to attack his fame, and
found some passages in cursory reading, which gave me hopes of
stigmatizing him as a plagiary. The farther I carried my search, the
more eager I grew for the discovery; and the more my hypothesis was
opposed, the more I was heated with rage. The consequence of my blind
passion, I need not relate; it has, by your detection, become apparent
to mankind. Nor do I mention this provocation, as adequate to the fury
which I have shown, but as a cause of anger, less shameful and
reproachful than fractious malice, personal envy, or national jealousy.
But for the violation of truth, I offer no excuse, because I well know,
that nothing can excuse it. Nor will I aggravate my crime, by
disingenuous palliations. I confess it, I repent it, and resolve, that
my first offence shall be my last. More I cannot perform, and more,
therefore, cannot be required. I entreat the pardon of all men, whom I
have by any means induced to support, to countenance, or patronise my
frauds, of which, I think myself obliged to declare, that not one of my
friends was conscious. I hope to deserve, by better conduct, and more
useful undertakings, that patronage which I have obtained from the most
illustrious and venerable names by misrepresentation and delusion, and
to appear hereafter in such a character, as shall give you no reason to
regret that your name is frequently mentioned with that of,
Your most humble servant,
December 20, 1750.
 Virorum maximus--Joannes Miltonus--Poeta celeberrimus--non Angliae
modo, soli natalis, verum generis humani ornamentum--cujus eximius
liber, Anglicanis versibus conscriptus, vulgo Paradisus amissus,
immortalis illud ingenii monumentum, cum ipsa fere aeternitate
perennaturum est opus!--Hujus memoriam Anglorum primus, post tantum,
proh dolor! ab tanti excessu poetae intervallum, statua eleganti in
loco celeberrimo, coenobio Westmonasteriensi, posita, regum,
principum, antistitum, illustriumque Angliae virorum caemeterio, vir
ornatissimus, Gulielmus Benson prosecutus est.
_Poetarum Scotorum Musae Sacrae, in praefatione, Edinb. 1739._
A character, as high and honourable as ever was bestowed upon him by
the most sanguine of his admirers! and as this was my cool and
sincere opinion of that wonderful man formerly, so I declare it to
be the same still, and ever will be, notwithstanding all appearances
to the contrary, occasioned merely by passion and resentment; which
appear, however, by the Postscript to the Essay, to be so far from
extending to the posterity of Milton, that I recommend his only
remaining descendant, in the warmest terms, to the public.
 On two unequal crutches propp'd he[2a] came;
Milton's on this, on that _one_ Johnston's name. Dunciad, Book IV.
[2a] _Benson_. This man endeavoured to raise himself to fame, by
erecting monuments, striking coins, and procuring translations of
Milton; and afterwards continued: by a great passion for Arthur
Johnston, a Scots physician's version of the Psalms, of which he
printed many fine editions. _Notes on the Dunciad_.
No fewer than six different editions of that useful and valuable
book, two in quarto, two in octavo, and two in a lesser form, now
lie, like lumber, in the hand of Mr. Vaillant, bookseller, the
effects of Mr. Pope's ill-natured criticism.
One of these editions in quarto, illustrated with an interpretation
and notes, after the manner of the classic authors _in usum
Delphini_, was, by the worthy editor, anno 1741, inscribed to his
Royal Highness Prince George, as a proper book for his instruction
in principles of piety, as well as knowledge of the Latin tongue,
when he should arrive at due maturity of age. To restore this book
to credit was the cause that induced me to engage in this
disagreeable controversy, rather than any design to depreciate the
just reputation of Milton.
TESTIMONIES CONCERNING MR. LAUDER.
Edinb. May 22, 1734.
These are certifying, that Mr. William Lauder past his course at this
university, to the general satisfaction of these masters, under whom he
studied. That he has applied himself particularly to the study of
humanity ever since. That for several years past, he has taught with
success, students in the humanity class, who were recommended to him by
the professor thereof. And lastly, has taught that class itself, during
the indisposition, and since the death of its late professor: and,
therefore, is, in our opinion, a fit person to teach humanity in any
school or college whatever.
J. GOWDIE, S.S.T.P.
MATT. CRAUFURD, S.S.T. et HIST. EC. PR. REG.
WILLIAM SCOTT, P.P.
ROBERT STUART, PH. NAT. PR.
COL. DRUMMOND, L.G. et P. PR.
COL. MAC-LAURIN, MATH. P. EDIN.
AL. BAYNE, J.P.
CHARLES MACKY, HIST. P.
ALEX. MORRO, ANAT. P.
WILLIAM DAWSON, L.H.P.
 So the Latin tongue is called in Scotland, from the Latin phrase,
_classis humaniorum literarum_, the class or form where that language is
A Letter from the Reverend Mr. Patrick Cuming, one of the Ministers of
Edinburgh, and Regius Professor of Church History in the University
there, to the Reverend Mr. Blair, Rector of the Grammar school at
Upon a public advertisement in the newspapers, of the vacancy of a
master's place in your school, Mr. William Lauder, a friend of mine,
proposes to set up for a candidate, and goes over for that purpose. He
has long-taught the Latin with great approbation in this place, and
given such proofs of his mastery in that language, that the best judges
do, upon all occasions, recommend him as one who is qualified in the
best manner. He has taught young boys and young gentlemen, with great
success; nor did I ever hear of any complaint of him from either parents
or children. I beg leave to recommend him to you as my friend; what
friendship you show him, I will look upon as a very great act of
friendship to me, of which he and I will retain the most grateful sense,
if he is so happy as to be preferred. I persuade myself, you will find
him ready at all times to be advised by you, as I have found him. Indeed
if justice had been done him, he should long ago have been advanced for
his merit. I ever am,
Your most affectionate, humble servant,
Edin. Nov. 13, 1742.
A Letter from Mr. Mac-Laurin, late Professor of Mathematicks in the
University of Edinburgh, to the Reverend Mr. George Blair, Rector of the
Grammar school at Dundee.
Though unacquainted, I take the liberty of giving you this trouble, from
the desire I have always had to see Mr. Lauder provided in a manner
suited to his talent. I know him to have made uncommon progress in
classical learning, to have taught it with success, and never heard
there could be any complaint against his method of teaching. I am,
indeed, a stranger to the reasons of his want of success on former
occasions. But after conversing with him, I have ground to hope, that he
will be always advised by you, for whom he professes great esteem, and
will be useful under you. I am,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
College of Edinburgh, Nov. 30, 1742.
A Letter from the Authors of the Universal History, to Mr. Lauder.
London, August 12th, 1741.
When we so gladly took the first opportunity of reviving the memory and
merit of your incomparable Johnston, in the first volume of our
Universal History, our chief aim was to excite some generous Mecenas to
favour the world with a new edition of a poem which we had long since
beheld with no small concern, buried, as it were, by some unaccountable
fatality, into an almost total oblivion; whilst others of that kind,
none of them superior, many vastly inferior to it, rode, unjustly, as we
thought, triumphant over his silent grave. And it is with great
satisfaction that we have seen our endeavours so happily crowned in the
edition you soon after gave of it at Edinburgh, in your learned and
judicious vindication of your excellent author, and more particularly by
the just deference which your learned and pious convocation has been
pleased to pay to that admirable version.
We have had since then, the pleasure to see your worthy example followed
here, in the several beautiful editions of the honourable Mr. Auditor
Benson, with his critical notes upon the work.
It was, indeed, the farthest from our thoughts, to enter into the merit
of the controversy between your two great poets, Johnston and Buchanan;
neither were we so partial to either as not to see, that each had their
shades as well as lights; so that, if the latter has been more happy in
the choice and variety of his metre, it is as plain, that he has given
his poetic genius such an unlimited scope, as has in many cases quite
disfigured the peculiar and inimitable beauty, simplicity, and energy of
the original, which the former, by a more close and judicious version,
has constantly, and surprisingly displayed. Something like this we
ventured to hint in our note upon these two noble versions; to have said
more, would have been inconsistent with our designed brevity.
We have, likewise, since seen what your opponent has writ in praise of
the one, and derogation of the other, and think you have sufficiently
confuted him, and with respect to us, he has been so far from giving us
any cause to retract what we had formerly said, that it has administered
an occasion to us of vindicating it, as we have lately done by some
critical notes on your excellent Johnston, which we communicated soon
after to Mr. A. B. who was pleased to give them a place in his last
edition of him, and which we doubt not you have seen long ago. How they
have been relished among you we know not, but with us they have been
thought sufficient to prove what we have advanced, as well as to direct
the attentive reader to discover new instances of your author's
exactness and elegance, in every page, if not almost in every line.
We gratefully accept of the books, and kind compliments you were pleased
to transmit to us by Mr. Strahan, and had long since returned you our
thanks, but for the many avocations which the great work you know us to
be engaged in doth of necessity bring upon us; obliging us, or some, at
least, of our society, to make, from time to time, an excursion to one
or other of our two learned universities, and consulting them upon the
best method of carrying on this work to the greatest advantage to the
public. This has been some considerable part of our employment for these
twelve months past; and we flatter ourselves, that we have, with their
assistance and approbation, made such considerable improvements on our
original plan, as will scarcely fail of being acceptable to the learned
world. They will shortly appear in print, to convince the world that we
have not been idle, though this sixth volume is like to appear somewhat
later in the year than was usual with our former ones. We shall take the
liberty to transmit some copies of our new plan to you as soon as they
are printed. All we have left to wish with respect to your excellent
countryman and his version is, that it may always meet with such
powerful and impartial advocates, and that it may be as much esteemed by
all candid judges, as it is by,
Your sincere wellwishers and humble servants,
The AUTHORS of the Universal History.
A Letter from the learned Mr. Robert Ainsworth, author of the Latin and
English Dictionary, to Mr. Lauder.
LEARNED AND WORTHY SIR,
These wait on you, to thank you for the honour you have done a person,
equally unknown as undeserving, in your valuable present, which I did
not receive till several weeks after it was sent: and since I received
it, my eyes have been so bad, and my hand so unstable, that I have been
forced to defer my duty, as desirous to thank you with my own hand. I
congratulate to your nation the just honour ascribed to it by its
neighbours and more distant countries, in having bred two such excellent
poets as your Buchanan and Johnston, whom to name is to commend; but am
concerned for their honour at home, who being committed together, seem
to me both to suffer a diminution, whilst justice is done to neither.
But at the same time I highly approve your nation's piety in bringing
into your schools sacred instead of profane poesy, and heartily wish
that ours, and all Christian governments, would follow your example
herein. If a mixture of _utile dulci_ be the best composition in poetry,
(which is too evident to need the judgment of the nicest critick in the
art,) surely the _utile_ so transcendently excels in the sacred hymns,
that a Christian must deny his name that doth not acknowledge it: and if
the _dulce_ seem not equally to excel, it must be from a vitiated taste
of those who read them in the original, and, in others, at second-hand,
from translations. For the manner of writing in the east and west is
widely distant, and which to a paraphrast must render his task exceeding
difficult, as requiring a perfect knowledge in two languages, wherein
the idioms and graces of speech, caused by the diversity of their
religion, laws, customs, &c. are as remote as the inhabitants, wherein,
notwithstanding, your poets have succeeded to admiration.
Your main contest seems to me, when stript of persons, whether the easy
or sublime in poesy be preferable; if so,
Non opis est nostrae tantam componere litem:
nor think I it in your case material to be decided. Both these have
their particular excellencies and graces, and youth ought to be taught
wherein (which the matter ought chiefly to determine) the one hath
place, and where the other. Now since the hymns of David, Moses, and
other divine poets, intermixt with them, (infinitely excelling those of
Callimachus, Alcaeus, Sappho, Anacreon, and all others,) abound in both
these virtues, and both your poets are acknowledged to be very happy in
paraphrasing them, it is my opinion, both of them, without giving the
least preference to either, should be read alternately in your schools,
as the tutor shall direct. Pardon, learned Sir, this scribble to my age
and weakness, both which are very great, and command me wherein I may
serve you, as,
Your obliged, thankful, and obedient servant,
Spitalfields, Sept. 1741.
A Letter from the Authors of the Universal History to Mr. Auditor
It is with no small pleasure that we see Dr. Johnston's translation of
the Psalms revived in so elegant a manner, and adorned with such a just
and learned display of its inimitable beauties. As we flatter ourselves
that the character we gave it, in our first volume of the Universal
History, did, in some measure, contribute to it, we hope, that in
justice to that great poet, you will permit us to cast the following
mites into your treasury of critical notes on his noble version. We
always thought the palm by far this author's due, as upon many other
accounts, so especially for two excellencies hitherto not taken notice
of by any critic, that we know of, and which we beg leave to transmit to
you, and if you think fit, by you to the public, in the following
We beg leave to subscribe ourselves,
The AUTHORS of the Universal History.
Dr. Isaac Watts, D.D. in his late book, entitled, The Improvement of the
Mind, Lond. 1741, p. 114.
Upon the whole survey of things, it is my opinion, that for almost all
boys who learn this tongue, [the Latin,] it would be much safer to be
taught Latin poesy, as soon, and as far as they can need it, from those
excellent translations of David's Psalms, which are given us by Buchanan
in the various measures of Horace; and the lower classes had better read
Dr. Johnston's translation of those Psalms, another elegant writer of
the Scots nation, instead of Ovid's Epistles; for he has turned the same
Psalms, perhaps, with greater elegancy, into elegiac verse, whereof the
learned W. Benson, esq. has lately published a new edition; and I hear
that these Psalms are honoured with an increasing use in the schools of
Holland and Scotland. A stanza, or a couplet of those writers would now
and then stick upon the minds of youth, and would furnish them
infinitely better with pious and moral thoughts, and do something
towards making them good men and Christians.
An Act of the Commission of the General Assembly of the Kirk of
Scotland, recommending Dr. Arthur Johnston's Latin Paraphrase of the
Psalms of David, &c.
At Edinburgh, 13th of November, 1740, post meridiem.
A Petition having been presented to the late General Assembly, by Mr.
William Lauder, teacher of humanity in Edinburgh, craving, That Dr.
Arthur Johnston's Latin Paraphrase on the Psalms of David, and Mr.
Robert Boyd, of Trochrig, his Hecatombe Christiana, may be recommended
to be taught in all grammar schools; and the assembly having appointed a
committee of their number to take the desire of the foresaid petition
into their consideration, and report to the commission: the said
committee offered their opinion, that the commission should grant the
desire of the said petition, and recommend the said Dr. Johnston's
Paraphrase to be taught in the lower classes of the schools, and Mr.
George Buchanan's Paraphrase on the Psalms, together with Mr. Robert
Boyd of Trochrig's, Hecatombe Christiana in the higher classes of
schools, and humanity-classes in universities. The commission having
heard the said report, unanimously approved thereof, and did, and hereby
do, recommend accordingly.
WILLIAM GRANT, Cl. Ecl. Sc.
 This honourable gentleman is now his Majesty's Advocate for
A Letter from the learned Mr. Abraham Gronovius, Secretary to the
University of Leyden, to Mr. Lauder, concerning the Adamus Exsul of
Clarissimo Viro, Wilhelmo Laudero, Abrahamus Gronovius, S.P.D.
Postquam binae literae tuae ad me perlatae fuerunt, duas editiones
carminum H. Grotii, viri vere summi, excussi; verum ab utraque
tragoediam, quam Adamum Exsulem inscripsit [Greek: O AEAPY], abesse
deprehendi; neque ullum ejusdem exemplar, quamvis tres editiones
exstare adnotaveram, ullibi offendere potui, adeo ut spe, quam vorabam
desiderio tuo satisfaciendi, me prorsus excidisse existimarem.
Verum nuperrime forte contigit, ut primam tragoediae Grotianae
editionem, Hagae, an. 1601. publicatam, beneficio amicissimi mihi viri
nactus fuerim, ejusque decem priores paginas, quibus, praeter chorum,
actus primus comprehenditur, a Jacobo meo, optimae spei adolescente,
transcriptas nunc ad te mitto. Vale, vir doctissime, meque, ut facis,
amare perge. Dabam Lugd. Bat. A. D, IV. Id. Sept. A. D. MDCCXLVI.
 Though Gronovius here mentions only three editions of this noble and
curious performance, the Adamus Exsul of Grotius; yet it appears from
the catalogue of his works, that no fewer than four have been printed,
two in quarto, and two in octavo, in the years 1601, 1608, and 1635; two
having been made, one in quarto, the other in octavo, anno 1601.
A second Letter from the same gentleman to Mr. Lauder, on the same
Clarissime atque eruditissime vir,
Posteaquam, tandem Jacobus meus residuam partem, quam desiderabas,
tragoediae Grotianae transcripserat, ut ea diutius careres, committere
nolui: quod autem citius illam ad finem perducere non potuerit,
obstiterunt variae occupationes, quibus districtus fuit. Nam, praeter
scholastica studia, quibus strenue incubuit, ipsi componenda erat
oratio, qua rudimenta linguae Graecae Latinseque deponeret, eamque, quod
vehementer laetor, venuste, et quidem stilo ligato, composuit, et in
magna auditorum corona pronuntiavit. Quod autem ad exemplar ipsum, quo
Adamus Exsul comprehenditur, spectat, id lubens, si meum foret, ad te
perferri curarem, verum illud a clarissimo possessore tanti aestimatur,
ut perrsuasum habeam me istud minime ab ipso impetraturum: et sane sacra
carmina Grotii adeo raro obvia sunt, ut eorundem exemplar apud ipsos
remonstrantium ecclesiastas frustra quaesiverim.
Opus ipsum inscriptum est HENRICO BORBONIO, PRINCIPI CONDAEO; et forma
libri est in quarto, ut nullo pacto literis includi possit. Ceterum, pro
splendidissima et Magnes Britanniae principe, cui merito dicata est,
digna editione Psalmorum, ex versione metrica omnium fere poetarum
principis JONSTONI maximas tibi grates habet agitque Jacobus. Utinam
illustrissimus Bensonus in usum serenissimi principis, atque ingeniorum
in altiora surgentium, eadem forma, lisdemque typis exarari juberet
divinos illos Ciceronis de Officiis libros, dignos sane, quos diurna
nocturnaque manu versaret princeps, a quo aliquando Britannici regni
majestas et populi salus pendebunt! Interim tibi, eruditissime vir,
atque etiam politissimo D. Caveo, pro muneribus literariis, quae per
nobilissimum Lawsonium  ad me curastis, magno opere me obstrictum
agnosco, cademque, summa cum voluptate, a me perlecta sunt.
Filius meus te plurimum salutat.
Vale, doctissime vir, meisque verbis D. Caveum saluta, atque amare
Dabam Leidis, A. D. xiv. KAL.
Maias, A. D. MDCCXLVII.
 The person here meant was the learned and worthy Dr. Isaac Lawson,
late physician to the English army in Flanders; by whom Mr. Gronovius
did me the honour to transmit to me two or three acts of the Adamus
Exsul of Grotius, transcribed by his son, Mr. James. The truth of this
particular consists perfectly well with the knowledge of the Doctor's
brother, John Lawson, esq. counsellor at law; who also had the same
thing lately confirmed to him by Mr. Gronovius himself in Holland.
And now my character is placed above all suspicion of fraud by
authentick documents, I will make bold, at last, to pull off the mask,
and declare sincerely the true motive that induced me to interpolate a
few lines into some of the authors quoted by me in my Essay on Milton,
which was this: Knowing the prepossession in favour of Milton, how
deeply it was rooted in many, I was willing to make trial, if the
partial admirers of that author would admit a translation of his own
words to pass for his sense, or exhibit his meaning; which I thought
they would not: nor was I mistaken in my conjecture, forasmuch as
several gentlemen, seemingly persons of judgment and learning, assured
me, they humbly conceived I had not proved my point, and that Milton
might have written as he has done, supposing he had never seen these
authors, or they had never existed. Such is the force of prejudice! This
exactly confirms the judicious observation of the excellent moralist and
Pravo favore labi mortales solent;
Et pro judicio dum stant erroris sui,
Ad poenitendum rebus manifestis agi.
For, had I designed, as the vindicator of Milton supposes, to impose a
trick on the publick, and procure credit to my assertions by an
imposture, I would never have drawn lines from Hog's translation of
Milton, a book common at every sale, I had almost said, at every stall,
nor ascribed them to authors so easily attained: I would have gone
another way to work, by translating forty or fifty lines, and assigning
them to an author, whose works possibly might not be found till the
world expire at the general conflagration. My imposing, therefore, on
the publick in general, instead of a few obstinate persons, for whose
sake alone the stratagem was designed, is the only thing culpable in my
conduct, for which again I most humbly ask pardon: and that this, and
this only, was, as no other could be, my design, no one, I think, can
doubt, from the account I have just now given; and whether that was so
criminal, as it has been represented, I shall leave every impartial mind
AN ACCOUNT OF AN ATTEMPT TO ASCERTAIN THE LONGITUDE.
FIRST PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1755.
It is well known to seamen and philosophers, that, after the numerous
improvements produced by the extensive commerce of the later ages, the
great defect in the art of sailing is ignorance of longitude, or of the
distance to which the ship has passed eastward or westward, from any
That navigation might be at length set free from this uncertainty, the
legislative power of this kingdom incited the industry of searchers into
nature, by a large reward proposed to him who should show a practicable
method of finding the longitude at sea; and proportionable recompenses
to those, who, though they should not fully attain this great end, might
yet make such advances and discoveries as should facilitate the work to
those that might succeed them.
By the splendour of this golden encouragement many eyes were dazzled,
which nature never intended to pry into her secrets. By the hope of
sudden riches many understandings were set on work very little
proportioned to their strength, among whom whether mine shall be
numbered, must be left to the candour of posterity: for I, among others,
laid aside the business of my profession, to apply myself to the study
of the longitude, not, indeed, in expectation of the reward due to a
complete discovery; yet, not without hopes that I might be considered as
an assistant to some greater genius, and receive from the justice of my
country the wages offered to an honest and not unsuccessful labourer in
Considering the various means by which this important inquiry has been
pursued, I found that the observation of the eclipses, either of the
primary or secondary planets, being possible but at certain times, could
be of no use to the sailor; that the motions of the moon had been long
attended, however accurately, without any consequence; that other
astronomical observations were difficult and uncertain, with every
advantage of situation, instruments, and knowledge; and were, therefore,
utterly impracticable to the sailor, tost upon the water, ill provided
with instruments, and not very skilful in their application. The hope of
an accurate clock or time-keeper is more specious. But when I began
these studies, no movements had yet been made that were not evidently
unaccurate and uncertain: and even of the mechanical labours which I now
hear so loudly celebrated, when I consider the obstruction of movements
by friction, the waste of their parts by attrition, the various pressure
of the atmosphere, the effects of different effluvia upon metals, the
power of heat and cold upon all matter, the changes of gravitation and
the hazard of concussion, I cannot but fear that they will supply the
world with another instance of fruitless ingenuity, though, I hope, they
will not leave upon this country the reproach of unrewarded diligence. I
saw, therefore, nothing on which I could fix with probability of
success, but the magnetical needle, an instrument easily portable, and
little subject to accidental injuries, with which the sailor has had a
long acquaintance, which he will willingly study, and can easily
consult. The magnetick needle, from the year 1300, when it is generally
supposed to have been first applied by Flavio Gioia, of Amalfi, to the
seaman's use, seems to have been long thought to point exactly to the
north and south by the navigators of those times; who sailing commonly
on the calm Mediterranean, or making only short voyages, had no need of
very accurate observations; and who, if they ever transiently observed
any deviations from the meridian, either ascribed them to some
extrinsick and accidental cause, or willingly neglected what it was not
necessary to understand.
But when the discovery of the new world turned the attention of mankind
upon the naval sciences, and long courses required greater niceties of
practice, the variation of the needle soon became observable, and was
recorded, in 1500, by Sebastian Cabot, a Portuguese, who, at the expense
of the king of England, discovered the northern coasts of America.
As the next century was a time of naval adventures, it might be expected
that the variation once observed, should have been well studied: yet it
seems to have been little heeded; for it was supposed to be constant,
and always the same in the same place, till, in 1625, Gellibrand noted
its changes, and published his observations.
From this time the philosophical world had a new subject of speculation,
and the students of magnetism employed their researches upon the gradual
changes of the needle's direction, or the variations of the variation,
which have hitherto appeared so desultory and capricious, as to elude
all the schemes which the most fanciful of the philosophical dreamers
could devise for its explication. Any system that could have united
these tormenting diversities, they seem inclined to have received, and
would have contentedly numbered the revolutions of a central magnet,
with very little concern about its existence, could they have assigned
it any motion, or vicissitude of motions, which would have corresponded
with the changes of the needle.
Yet upon this secret property of magnetism I ventured to build my hopes
of ascertaining the longitude at sea. I found it undeniably certain that
the needle varies its direction in a course eastward or westward between
any assignable parallels of latitude: and, supposing nature to be in
this, as in all other operations, uniform and consistent, I doubted not
but the variation proceeded in some established method, though, perhaps,
too abstruse and complicated for human comprehension.
This difficulty, however, was to be encountered; and by close and steady
perseverance of attention I at last subdued, or thought myself to have
subdued it: having formed a regular system in which all the phenomena
seemed to be reconciled; and, being able, from the variation in places
where it is known, to trace it to those where it is unknown; or from the
past to predict the future; and, consequently, knowing the latitude and
variation, to assign the true longitude of any place.
With this system I came to London, where, having laid my proposals
before a number of ingenious gentlemen, it was agreed that during the
time required to the completion of my experiments, I should be supported
by a joint subscription to be repaid out of the reward, to which they
concluded me entitled. Among the subscribers, was Mr. Rowley, the
memorable constructor of the orrery; and among my favourers was the lord
Piesley, a title not unknown among magnetical philosophers. I frequently
showed, upon a globe of brass, experiments by which my system was
confirmed, at the house of Mr. Rowley, where the learned and curious of
that time generally assembled.
At this time great expectations were raised by Mr. Whiston, of
ascertaining the longitude by the inclination of the needle, which he
supposed to increase or diminish regularly. With this learned man I had
many conferences, in which I endeavoured to evince what he has at last
confessed in the narrative of his life, the uncertainty and inefficacy
of his method.
About the year 1729, my subscribers explained my pretensions to the
lords of the Admiralty, and the lord Torrington declared my claim just
to the reward assigned, in the last clause of the act, to those who
should make discoveries conducive to the perfection of the art of
sailing. This he pressed with so much warmth, that the commissioners
agreed to lay my tables before Sir Isaac Newton, who excused himself, by
reason of his age, from a regular examination: but when he was informed
that I held the variation at London to be still increasing; which he and
the other philosophers, his pupils, thought to be then stationary, and
on the point of regression, he declared that he believed my system
visionary. I did not much murmur to be for a time overborne by that
mighty name, even when I believed that the name only was against me: and
I have lived till I am able to produce, in my favour, the testimony of
time, the inflexible enemy of false hypotheses; the only testimony which
it becomes human understanding to oppose to the authority of Newton.
My notions have, indeed, been since treated with equal superciliousness
by those who have not the same title to confidence of decision; men who,
though, perhaps, very learned in their own studies, have had little
acquaintance with mine. Yet even this may be borne far better than the
petulance of boys, whom I have seen shoot up into philosophers by
experiments which I have long since made and neglected, and by
improvements which I have so long transferred into my ordinary practice,
that I cannot remember when I was without them.
When Sir Isaac Newton had declined the office assigned him, it was given
to Mr. Molineux, one of the commissioners of the Admiralty, who engaged
in it with no great inclination to favour me; but, however, thought one
of the instruments, which, to confirm my own opinion, and to confute Mr.
Whiston's, I had exhibited to the Admiralty, so curious or useful, that
he surreptitiously copied it on paper, and clandestinely endeavoured to
have it imitated by a workman for his own use.
This treatment naturally produced remonstrances and altercations, which,
indeed, did not continue long, for Mr. Molineux died soon afterwards;
and my proposals were for a time forgotten.
I will not, however, accuse him of designing to condemn me, without a
trial; for he demanded a portion of my tables to be tried in a voyage to
America, which I then thought I had reason to refuse him, not yet
knowing how difficult it was to obtain, on any terms, an actual
About this time the theory of Dr. Halley was the chief subject of
mathematical conversation; and though I could not but consider him as
too much a rival to be appealed to as a judge, yet his reputation
determined me to solicit his acquaintance and hazard his opinion. I was
introduced to him by Mr. Lowthorp and Dr. Desaguliers, and put my tables
into his hands; which, after having had them about twenty days under
consideration, he returned in the presence of the learned Mr. Machin,
and many other skilful men, with an entreaty that I would publish them
speedily; for I should do infinite service to mankind.
It is one of the melancholy pleasures of an old man, to recollect the
kindness of friends, whose kindness he shall experience no more. I have
now none left to favour my studies; and, therefore, naturally turn my
thoughts on those by whom I was favoured in better days: and I hope the
vanity of age may be forgiven, when I declare that I can boast among my
friends, almost every name of my time that is now remembered: and that,
in that great period of mathematical competition, scarce any man failed
to appear as my defender, who did not appear as my antagonist.
By these friends I was encouraged to exhibit to the Royal Society, an
ocular proof of the reasonableness of my theory by a sphere of iron, on
which a small compass moved in various directions, exhibiting no
imperfect system of magnetical attraction. The experiment was shown by
Mr. Hawkesbee, and the explanation, with which it was accompanied, was
read by Dr. Mortimer. I received the thanks of the society; and was
solicited to reposit my theory, properly sealed and attested, among
their archives, for the information of posterity. I am informed, that
this whole transaction is recorded in their minutes.
After this I withdrew from publick notice, and applied myself wholly to
the continuation of my experiments, the confirmation of my system, and
the completion of my tables, with no other companion than Mr. Gray, who
shared all my studies and amusements, and used to repay my
communications of magnetism, with his discoveries in electricity. Thus I
proceeded with incessant diligence; and, perhaps, in the zeal of
inquiry, did not sufficiently reflect on the silent encroachments of
time, or remember, that no man is in more danger of doing little, than
he who flatters himself with abilities to do all. When I was forced out
of my retirement, I came loaded with the infirmities of age, to struggle
with the difficulties of a narrow fortune; cut off by the blindness of
my daughter from the only assistance which I ever had; deprived by time
of my patron and friends; a kind of stranger in a new world, where
curiosity is now diverted to other objects, and where, having no means
of ingratiating my labours, I stand the single votary of an obsolete
science, the scoff of puny pupils of puny philosophers.
In this state of dereliction and depression, I have bequeathed to
posterity the following table; which, if time shall verify my
conjectures, will show that the variation was once known; and that
mankind had once within their reach an easy method of discovering the
I will not, however, engage to maintain, that all my numbers are
theoretically and minutely exact: I have not endeavoured at such degrees
of accuracy as only distract inquiry without benefiting practice. The
quantity of the variation has been settled partly by instruments, and
partly by computation: instruments must always partake of the
imperfection of the eyes and hands of those that make, and of those that
use them: and computation, till it has been rectified by experiment, is
always in danger of some omission in the premises, or some errour in the
It must be observed, in the use of this table, that though I name
particular cities, for the sake of exciting attention, yet the tables
are adjusted only to longitude and latitude. Thus when I predict that,
at Prague, the variation will in the year 1800 be 24-1/4 W. I intend to
say, that it will be such, if Prague be, as I-have placed it, after the
best geographers in longitude, 14 30'. E. latitude 50 40'. but that this
is its true situation I cannot be certain. The latitude of many places
is unknown, and the longitude is known of very few; and even those who
are unacquainted with science will be convinced that it is not easily to
be found, when they are told how many degrees Dr. Halley, and the French
mathematicians, place the cape of Good Hope distant from each other.
Those who would pursue this inquiry with philosophical nicety, must,
likewise, procure better needles than those commonly in use. The needle,
which, after long experience, I recommend to mariners, must be of pure
steel, the spines and the cap of one piece, the whole length three
inches, each spine containing four grains and a half of steel, and the
cap thirteen grains and a half.
The common needles are so ill formed, or so unskilfully suspended, that
they are affected by many causes besides magnetism; and, among other
inconveniencies, have given occasion to the idle dream of a horary
I doubt not but particular places may produce exceptions to my system.
There may be, in many parts of the earth, bodies which obstruct or
intercept the general influence of magnetism; but those interruptions do
not infringe the theory. It is allowed, that water will run down a
declivity, though sometimes a strong wind may force it upwards. It is
granted, that the sun gives light at noon, though, in certain
conjunctions, it may suffer an eclipse.
Those causes, whatever they are, that interrupt the course of the
magnetical powers, are least likely to be found in the great ocean, when
the earth, with all its minerals, is secluded from the compass by the
vast body of uniform water. So that this method of finding the
longitude, with a happy contrariety to all others, is most easy and
practicable at sea.
This method, therefore, I recommend to the study and prosecution of the
sailor and philosopher; and the appendant specimen I exhibit to the
candid examination of the maritime nations, as a specimen of a general
table, showing the variation at all times and places for the whole
revolution of the magnetick poles, which I have long ago begun, and,
with just encouragement, should have long ago completed.
 An account of an attempt to ascertain the longitude at sea, by an
exact theory of the variation of the magnetical needle; with a table of
variations at the most remarkable cities in Europe, from the year 1660
to 1860. By Zachariah Williams.
CONSIDERATIONS ON THE
PLANS OFFERED FOR THE CONSTRUCTION
OF BLACKFRIARS BRIDGE.
In three letters, to the printer of the Gazetteer.
SIR, Dec. 1, 1759.
The plans which have been offered by different architects, of different
reputation and abilities, for the construction of the bridge intended to
be built at Blackfriars, are, by the rejection of the greater part, now
reduced to a small number; in which small number, three are supposed to
be much superiour to the rest; so that only three architects are now
properly competitors for the honour of this great employment; by two of
whom are proposed semicircular, and by the other elliptical arches.
The question is, therefore, whether an elliptical or semicircular arch
is to be preferred?
The first excellence of a bridge, built for commerce, over a large
river, is strength; for a bridge which cannot stand, however beautiful,
will boast its beauty but a little while: the stronger arch is,
therefore, to be preferred, and much more to be preferred, if, with
greater strength, it has greater beauty.
Those who are acquainted with the mathematical principles of
architecture, are not many; and yet fewer are they who will, upon any
single occasion, endure any laborious stretch of thought, or harass
their minds with unaccustomed investigations. We shall, therefore,
attempt to show the weakness of the elliptical arch, by arguments which
appeal simply to common reason, and which will yet stand the test of
All arches have a certain degree of weakness. No hollow building can be
equally strong with a solid mass, of which every upper part presses
perpendicularly upon the lower. Any weight laid upon the top of an arch,
has a tendency to force that top into the vacuity below; and the arch,
thus loaded on the top, stands only because the stones that form it,
being wider in the upper than in the lower parts, that part that fills a
wider space cannot fall through a space less wide; but the force which,
laid upon a flat, would press directly downwards, is dispersed each way
in a lateral direction, as the parts of a beam are pushed out to the
right and left by a wedge driven between them. In proportion as the
stones are wider at the top than at the bottom, they can less easily be
forced downwards, and, as their lateral surfaces tend more from the
centre to each side, to so much more is the pressure directed laterally
towards the piers, and so much less perpendicularly towards the vacuity.
Upon this plain principle the semicircular arch may be demonstrated to
excel in strength the elliptical arch, which, approaching nearer to a
straight line, must be constructed with stones whose diminution
downwards is very little, and of which the pressure is almost
It has yet been sometimes asserted by hardy ignorance, that the
elliptical arch is stronger than the semicircular; or in other terms,
that any mass is more strongly supported the less it rests upon the
supporters. If the elliptical arch be equally strong with the
semicircular; that is, if an arch, by approaching to a straight line,
loses none of its stability, it will follow, that all arcuation is
useless, and that the bridge may at last, without any inconvenience,
consist of stone laid in straight lines from pillar to pillar. But if a
straight line will bear no weight, which is evident at the first view,
it is plain, likewise, that an ellipsis will bear very little; and that,
as the arch is more curved, its strength is increased.
Having thus evinced the superiour strength of the semicircular arch, we
have sufficiently proved, that it ought to be preferred; but to leave no
objection unprevented, we think it proper, likewise, to observe, that
the elliptical arch must always appear to want elevation and dignity;
and that if beauty be to be determined by suffrages, the elliptical arch
will have little to boast, since the only bridge of that kind has now
stood two hundred years without imitation.
If, in opposition to these arguments, and in defiance, at once, of right
reason and general authority, the elliptical arch should at last be
chosen, what will the world believe, than that some other motive than
reason influenced the determination? And some degree of partiality
cannot but be suspected by him, who has been told that one of the judges
appointed to decide this question, is Mr. M--ll--r, who, having by
ignorance, or thoughtlessness, already preferred the elliptical arch,
will, probably, think himself obliged to maintain his own judgment,
though his opinion will avail but little with the publick, when it is
known that Mr. S--ps--n declares it to be false.
He that, in the list of the committee chosen for the superintendency of
the bridge, reads many of the most illustrious names of this great city,
will hope that the greater number will have more reverence for the
opinion of posterity, than to disgrace themselves, and the metropolis of
the kingdom, in compliance with any man, who, instead of voting, aspires
to dictate, perhaps, without any claim to such superiority, either by
greatness of birth, dignity of employment, extent of knowledge, or
largeness of fortune.
SIR, Dec. 8, 1759.
In questions of general concern, there is no law of government, or rule
of decency, that forbids open examination and publick discussion. I
shall, therefore, not betray, by a mean apology, that right which no man
has power, and, I suppose, no wise man has desire to refuse me; but
shall consider the letter published by you last Friday, in defence of
Mr. M----'s design for a new bridge.
Mr. M---- proposes elliptical arches. It has been objected, that
elliptical arches are weak; and, therefore, improper for a bridge of
commerce, in a country where greater weights are ordinarily carried by
land, than, perhaps, in any other part of the world. That there is an
elliptical bridge at Florence is allowed, but the objectors maintain,
that its stability is so much doubted, that carts are not permitted to
pass over it.
To this no answer is made, but that it was built for coaches; and if it
had been built for carts, it would have been made stronger: thus all the
controvertists agree, that the bridge is too weak for carts; and it is
of little importance, whether carts are prohibited, because the bridge
is weak, or whether the architect, knowing that carts were prohibited,
voluntarily constructed a weak bridge. The instability of the elliptical
arch has been sufficiently proved by argument, and Ammanuti's attempt
has proved it by example.
The iron rail, whether gilt or varnished, appears to me unworthy of
debate. I suppose every judicious eye will discern it to be minute and
trifling, equally unfit to make a part of a great design, whatever be
its colour. I shall only observe how little the writer understands his
own positions, when he recommends it to be cast in whole pieces from
pier to pier. That iron forged is stronger than iron cast, every smith
can inform him; and if it be cast in large pieces, the fracture of a
single bar must be repaired by a new piece.
The abrupt rise, which is feared from firm circular arches, may be
easily prevented, by a little extension of the abutment at each end,
which will take away the objection, and add almost nothing to the
The whole of the argument in favour of Mr. M----, is only, that there is
an elliptical bridge at Florence, and an iron balustrade at Rome; the
bridge is owned to be weak, and the iron balustrade we consider as mean,
and are loath that our own country should unite two follies in a publick
The architrave of Perrault, which has been pompously produced, bears
nothing but its entablature; and is so far from owing its support to the
artful section of the stone, that it is held together by cramps of iron;
to which I am afraid Mr. M---- must have recourse, if he persists in his
ellipsis, or, to use the words of his vindicator, forms his arch of four
segments of circles drawn from four different centres.
That Mr. M---- obtained the prize of the architecture at Rome, a few
months ago, is willingly confessed; nor do his opponents doubt that he
obtained it by deserving it. May he continue to obtain whatever he
deserves; but let it not be presumed that a prize granted at Rome,
implies an irresistible degree of skill. The competition is only between
boys, and the prize, given to excite laudable industry, not to reward
consummate excellence. Nor will the suffrage of the Romans much advance
any name among those who know, what no man of science will deny, that
architecture has, for some time, degenerated at Rome to the lowest
state, and that the pantheon is now deformed by petty decorations.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
 Mr. Milne.
Sir, Dec. 15,1759.
It is the common fate of erroneous positions, that they are betrayed by
defence, and obscured by explanation; that their authors deviate from
the main question into incidental disquisitions, and raise a mist where
they should let in light.
Of all these concomitants of errours, the letter of Dec. 10, in favour
of elliptical arches, has afforded examples. A great part of it is spent
upon digressions. The writer allows, that the first excellence of a
bridge is undoubtedly strength: but this concession affords him an
opportunity of telling us, that strength, or provision against decay,
has its limits; and of mentioning the monument and cupola, without any
advance towards evidence or argument.
The first excellence of a bridge is now allowed to be strength; and it
has been asserted, that a semi-ellipsis has less strength than a
semicircle. To this he first answers, that granting this position for a
moment, the semi-ellipsis may yet have strength sufficient for the
purposes of commerce. This grant, which was made but for a moment,
needed not to have been made at all; for, before he concludes his
letter, he undertakes to prove, that the elliptical arch must, in all
respects, be superiour in strength to the semicircle. For this daring
assertion he made way by the intermediate paragraphs, in which he
observes, that the convexity of a semi-ellipsis may be increased at will
to any degree that strength may require; which is, that an elliptical
arch may be made less elliptical, to be made less weak; or that an arch,
which, by its elliptical form, is superiour in strength to the
semicircle, may become almost as strong as a semicircle, by being made
That the longer diameter of an ellipsis may be shortened, till it shall
differ little from a circle, is indisputably true; but why should the
writer forget the semicircle differs as little from such an ellipsis? It
seems that the difference, whether small or great, is to the advantage
of the semicircle; for he does not promise that the elliptical arch,
with all the convexity that his imagination can confer, will stand
without cramps of iron, and melted lead, and large stones, and a very
thick arch; assistances which the semicircle does not require, and which
can be yet less required by a semi-ellipsis, which is, in all respects,
superiour in strength.
Of a man who loves opposition so well, as to be thus at variance with
himself, little doubt can be made of his contrariety to others; nor do I
think myself entitled to complain of disregard from one, with whom the
performances of antiquity have so little weight; yet, in defiance of all
this contemptuous superiority, I must again venture to declare, that a
straight line will bear no weight; being convinced, that not even the
science of Vasari can make that form strong which the laws of nature
have condemned to weakness. By the position, that a straight line will
bear nothing, is meant, that it receives no strength from straightness;
for that many bodies, laid in straight lines, will support weight by the
cohesion of their parts, every one has found, who has seen dishes on a
shelf, or a thief upon the gallows. It is not denied, that stones may be
so crushed together by enormous pressure on each side, that a heavy mass
may safely be laid upon them; but the strength must be derived merely
from the lateral resistance; and the line, so loaded, will be itself
part of the load.
The semi-elliptical arch has one recommendation yet unexamined: we are
told, that it is difficult of execution. Why difficulty should be chosen
for its own sake, I am not able to discover; but it must not be
forgotten, that, as the convexity is increased, the difficulty is
lessened; and I know not well, whether this writer, who appears equally
ambitious of difficulty, and studious of strength, will wish to increase
the convexity for the gain of strength, or to lessen it for the love of
The friend of Mr. M----, however he may be mistaken in some of his
opinions, does not want the appearance of reason, when he prefers facts
to theories; and that I may not dismiss the question without some appeal
to facts, I will borrow an example, suggested by a great artist, and
recommended to those who may still doubt which of the two arches is the
stronger, to press an egg first on the ends, and then upon the sides.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
SOME THOUGHTS ON AGRICULTURE,
BOTH ANCIENT AND MODERN,
With an account of the honour due to an English farmer.
Agriculture, in the primeval ages, was the common parent of traffick;
for the opulence of mankind then consisted in cattle, and the product of
tillage, which are now very essential for the promotion of trade in
general, but more particularly so to such nations as are most abundant
in cattle, corn, and fruits. The labour of the farmer gives employment
to the manufacturer, and yields a support for the other parts of the
community: it is now the spring which sets the whole grand machine of
commerce in motion; and the sail could not be spread without the
assistance of the plough. But though the farmers are of such utility in
a state, we find them, in general, too much disregarded among the
politer kind of people in the present age; while we cannot help
observing the honour that antiquity has always paid to the profession of
the husbandman; which naturally leads us into some reflections upon that
Though mines of gold and silver should be exhausted,
and the specie made of them lost; though diamonds and pearls should
remain concealed in the bowels of the earth, and the womb of the sea;
though commerce with strangers be prohibited; though all arts, which
have no other object than splendour and embellishment, should be
abolished; yet the fertility of the earth alone would afford an abundant
supply for the occasions of an industrious people, by furnishing
subsistence for them, and such armies as should be mustered in their
defence. We, therefore, ought not to be surprised, that agriculture was
in so much honour among the ancients; for it ought rather to seem
wonderful that it should ever cease to be so, and that the most
necessary and most indispensable of all professions should have fallen
into any contempt.
Agriculture was in no part of the world in higher consideration than
Egypt, where it was the particular object of government and policy; nor
was any country ever better peopled, richer, or more powerful. The
satrapae, among the Assyrians and Persians, were rewarded, if the lands
in their governments were well cultivated; but were punished, if that
part of their duty was neglected. Africa abounded in corn; but the most
famous countries were Thrace, Sardinia, and Sicily.
Cato, the censor, has justly called Sicily the magazine and nursing
mother of the Roman people, who were supplied from thence with almost
all their corn, both for the use of the city, and the subsistence of her
armies: though we also find in Livy, that the Romans received no
inconsiderable quantities of corn from Sardinia. But, when Rome had made
herself mistress of Carthage and Alexandria, Africa and Egypt became her
storehouses; for those cities sent such numerous fleets every year,
freighted with corn, to Rome, that Alexandria alone annually supplied
twenty millions of bushels: and, when the harvest happened to fail in
one of these provinces, the other came in to its aid, and supported the
metropolis of the world, which, without this supply, would have been in
danger of perishing by famine. Rome actually saw herself reduced to this
condition under Augustus; for there remained only three days' provision
of corn in the city: and that prince was so full of tenderness for the
people, that he had resolved to poison himself, if the expected fleets
did not arrive before the expiration of that time; but they came; and
the preservation of the Romans was attributed to the good fortune of
their emperour: but wise precautions were taken to avoid the like danger
for the future.
When the seat of empire was transplanted to Constantinople, that city
was supplied in the same manner: and when the emperour, Septimius
Severus, died, there was corn in the publick magazines for seven years,
expending daily 75,000 bushels in bread, for 600,000 men.
The ancients were no less industrious in the cultivation of the vine
than in that of corn, though they applied themselves to it later: for
Noah planted it by order, and discovered the use that might be made of
the fruit, by pressing out and preserving the juice. The vine was
carried by the offspring of Noah into the several countries of the
world; but Asia was the first to experience the sweets of this gift;
from whence it was imparted to Europe and Africa. Greece and Italy,
which were distinguished in so many other respects, were particularly so
by the excellency of their wines. Greece was most celebrated for the
wines of Cyprus, Lesbos, and Chio; the former of which is in great
esteem at present, though the cultivation of the vine has been generally
suppressed in the Turkish dominions. As the Romans were indebted to the
Grecians for the arts and sciences, so were they, likewise, for the
improvement of their wines; the best of which were produced in the
country of Capua, and were called the Massick, Calenian, Formian,
Caecuban, and Falernian, so much celebrated by Horace. Domitian passed
an edict for destroying all the vines, and that no more should be
planted throughout the greatest part of the west; which continued almost
two hundred years afterwards, when the emperour Probus employed his
soldiers in planting vines in Europe, in the same manner as Hannibal had
formerly employed his troops in planting olive trees in Africa. Some of
the ancients have endeavoured to prove, that the cultivation of vines is
more beneficial than any other kind of husbandry: but, if this was
thought so in the time of Columella, it is very different at present;
nor were all the ancients of his opinion, for several gave the
preference to pasture lands.
The breeding of cattle has always been considered as an important part
of agriculture. The riches of Abraham, Laban, and Job, consisted in
their flocks and herds. We also find from Latinus in Virgil, and Ulysses
in Homer, that the wealth of those princes consisted in cattle. It was,
likewise, the same among the Romans, till the introduction of money,
which put a value upon commodities, and established a new kind of
barter. Varro has not disdained to give an extensive account of all the
beasts that are of any use to the country, either for tillage, breed,
carriage, or other conveniencies of man. And Cato, the censor, was of
opinion, that the feeding of cattle was the most certain and speedy
method of enriching a country.
Luxury, avarice, injustice, violence, and ambition, take up their
ordinary residence in populous cities; while the hard and laborious life
of the husbandman will not admit of these vices. The honest farmer lives
in a wise and happy state, which inclines him to justice, temperance,
sobriety, sincerity, and every virtue that can dignify human nature.
This gave room for the poets to feign, that Astraea, the goddess of
justice, had her last residence among husbandmen, before she quitted the
earth. Hesiod and Virgil have brought the assistance of the Muses in
praise of agriculture. Kings, generals, and philosophers, have not
thought it unworthy their birth, rank, and genius, to leave precepts to
posterity upon the utility of the husbandman's profession. Hiero,
Attalus, and Archelaus, kings of Syracuse, Pergamus, and Cappadocia,
have composed books for supporting and augmenting the fertility of their
different countries. The Carthaginian general, Mago, wrote twenty-eight
volumes upon this subject; and Cato, the censor, followed his example.
Nor have Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, omitted this article, which
makes an essential part of their politicks. And Cicero, speaking of the
writings of Xenophon, says, "How fully and excellently does he, in that
book called his Economicks, set out the advantages of husbandry, and a
When Britain was subject to the Romans, she annually supplied them with
great quantities of corn; and the isle of Anglesea was then looked upon
as the granary for the western provinces; but the Britons, both under
the Romans and Saxons, were employed like slaves at the plough. On the
intermixture of the Danes and Normans, possessions were better
regulated, and the state of vassalage gradually declined, till it was
entirely worn off under the reigns of Henry the seventh and Edward the
sixth; for they hurt the old nobility by favouring the commons, who grew
rich by trade, and purchased estates.
The wines of France, Portugal, and Spain, are now the best; while Italy
can only boast of the wine made in Tuscany. The breeding of cattle is
now chiefly confined to Denmark and Ireland. The corn of Sicily is still
in great esteem, as well as what is produced in the northern countries:
but England is the happiest spot in the universe for all the principal
kinds of agriculture, and especially its great produce of corn.
The improvement of our landed estates is the enrichment of the kingdom;
for, without this, how could we carry on our manufactures, or prosecute
our commerce? We should look upon the English farmer as the most useful
member of society. His arable grounds not only supply his fellow-subjects
with all kinds of the best grain, but his industry enables him to export
great quantities to other kingdoms, which might otherwise starve;
particularly Spain and Portugal; for, in one year, there have been
exported 51,520 quarters of barley, 219,781 of malt, 1,920 of oatmeal,
1,329 of rye, and 153,343 of wheat; the bounty on which amounted to
72,433 pounds. What a fund of treasure arises from his pasture lands,
which breed such innumerable flocks of sheep, and afford such fine herds
of cattle, to feed Britons, and clothe mankind! He rears flax and hemp
for the making of linen; while his plantations of apples and hops supply
him with generous kinds of liquors.
The land-tax, when at four shillings in the pound, produces 2,000,000
pounds a year. This arises from the labour of the husbandman: it is a
great sum; but how greatly is it increased by the means it furnishes for
trade! Without the industry of the farmer, the manufacturer could have
no goods to supply the merchant, nor the merchant find any employment
for the mariners: trade would be stagnated; riches would be of no
advantage to the great; and labour of no service to the poor.
The Romans, as historians all allow,
Sought, in extreme distress, the rural plough;
_Io triumphe!_ for the village swain,
Retired to be a nobleman again.
 From the Universal Visiter, for February, 1756, p. 59.--Smart, the
poet, had a considerable hand in this miscellany. The very first
sentence, however, may convince any reader that Dr. Johnson did not
write these Thoughts: they are inserted here merely as an
introduction to the Further Thoughts, which follow, and which are
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON AGRICULTURE.
 From the Visiter for March, 1756, p. 111.
At my last visit, I took the liberty of mentioning a subject, which, I
think, is not considered with attention proportionate to its importance.
Nothing can more fully prove the ingratitude of mankind, a crime often
charged upon them, and often denied, than the little regard which the
disposers of honorary rewards have paid to agriculture, which is treated
as a subject so remote from common life, by all those who do not
immediately hold the plough, or give fodder to the ox, that I think
there is room to question, whether a great part of mankind has yet been
informed that life is sustained by the fruits of the earth. I was once,
indeed, provoked to ask a lady of great eminence for genius, "Whether
she knew of what bread is made?"
I have already observed, how differently agriculture was considered by
the heroes and wise men of the Roman commonwealth, and shall now only
add, that even after the emperours had made great alteration in the
system of life, and taught men to portion out their esteem to other
qualities than usefulness, agriculture still maintained its reputation,
and was taught by the polite and elegant Celsus among the other arts.
The usefulness of agriculture I have already shown; I shall now,
therefore, prove its necessity: and, having before declared, that it
produces the chief riches of a nation, I shall proceed to show, that it
gives its only riches, the only riches which we can call our own, and of
which we need not fear either deprivation or diminution.
Of nations, as of individuals, the first blessing is independence.
Neither the man nor the people can be happy to whom any human power can
deny the necessaries or conveniencies of life. There is no way of living
without the need of foreign assistance, but by the product of our own
land, improved by our own labour. Every other source of plenty is
perishable or casual.
Trade and manufactures must be confessed often to enrich countries; and
we ourselves are indebted to them for those ships by which we now
command the sea from the equator to the poles, and for those sums with
which we have shown ourselves able to arm the nations of the north in
defence of regions in the western hemisphere. But trade and
manufactures, however profitable, must yield to the cultivation of lands
in usefulness and dignity.
Commerce, however we may please ourselves with the contrary opinion, is
one of the daughters of Fortune, inconstant and deceitful as her mother;
she chooses her residence where she is least expected, and shifts her
abode when her continuance is, in appearance, most firmly settled. Who
can read of the present distresses of the Genoese, whose only choice now
remaining is, from what monarch they shall solicit protection? Who can
see the Hanseatick towns in ruins, where, perhaps, the inhabitants do
not always equal the number of the houses, but he will say to himself,
these are the cities, whose trade enabled them once to give laws to the
world, to whose merchants princes sent their jewels in pawn, from whose
treasuries armies were paid, and navies supplied? And who can then
forbear to consider trade as a weak and uncertain basis of power, and
wish to his own country greatness more solid, and felicity more durable?
It is apparent, that every trading nation flourishes, while it can be
said to flourish, by the courtesy of others. We cannot compel any people
to buy from us, or to sell to us. A thousand accidents may prejudice
them in favour of our rivals; the workmen of another nation may labour
for less price, or some accidental improvement, or natural advantage,
may procure a just preference to their commodities; as experience has
shown, that there is no work of the hands, which, at different times, is
not best performed in different places.
Traffick, even while it continues in its state of prosperity, must owe
its success to agriculture; the materials of manufacture are the produce
of the earth. The wool which we weave into cloth, the wood which is
formed into cabinets, the metals which are forged into weapons, are
supplied by nature with the help of art. Manufactures, indeed, and
profitable manufactures, are sometimes raised from imported materials,
but then we are subjected, a second time, to the caprice of our
neighbours. The natives of Lombardy might easily resolve to retain their
silk at home, and employ workmen of their own to weave it. And this will
certainly be done when they grow wise and industrious, when they have
sagacity to discern their true interest, and vigour to pursue it.
Mines are generally considered as the great sources of wealth, and
superficial observers have thought the possession of great quantities of
precious metals the first national happiness. But Europe has long seen,
with wonder and contempt, the poverty of Spain, who thought herself
exempted from the labour of tilling the ground, by the conquest of Peru,
with its veins of silver. Time, however, has taught even this obstinate
and haughty nation, that without agriculture they may, indeed, be the
transmitters of money, but can never be the possessours. They may dig it
out of the earth, but must immediately send it away to purchase cloth or
bread, and it must at last remain with some people wise enough to sell
much, and to buy little; to live upon their own lands, without a wish
for those things which nature has denied them.
Mines are themselves of no use, without some kind of agriculture. We
have, in our own country, inexhaustible stores of iron, which lie
useless in the ore for want of wood. It was never the design of
Providence to feed man without his own concurrence; we have from nature
only what we cannot provide for ourselves; she gives us wild fruits,
which art must meliorate, and drossy metals, which labour must refine.
Particular metals are valuable, because they are scarce; and they are
scarce, because the mines that yield them are emptied in time. But the
surface of the earth is more liberal than its caverns. The field, which
is this autumn laid naked by the sickle, will be covered, in the
succeeding summer, by a new harvest; the grass, which the cattle are
devouring, shoots up again when they have passed over it.
Agriculture, therefore, and agriculture alone, can support us without
the help of others, in certain plenty, and genuine dignity. Whatever we
buy from without, the sellers may refuse; whatever we sell, manufactured
by art, the purchasers may reject; but, while our ground is covered with
corn and cattle, we can want nothing; and if imagination should grow
sick of native plenty, and call for delicacies or embellishments from
other countries, there is nothing which corn and cattle will not
Our country is, perhaps, beyond all others, productive of things
necessary to life. The pineapple thrives better between the tropicks,
and better furs are found in the northern regions. But let us not envy
these unnecessary privileges. Mankind cannot subsist upon the
indulgences of nature, but must be supported by her more common gifts.
They must feed upon bread, and be clothed with wool; and the nation that
can furnish these universal commodities, may have her ships welcomed at
a thousand ports, or sit at home and receive the tribute of foreign
countries, enjoy their arts, or treasure up their gold.
It is well known to those who have examined the state of other
countries, that the vineyards of France are more than equivalent to the
mines of America; and that one great use of Indian gold, and Peruvian
silver, is to procure the wines of Champaigne and Burgundy. The
advantage is, indeed, always rising on the side of France, who will
certainly have wines, when Spain, by a thousand natural or accidental
causes, may want silver. But, surely, the valleys of England have more
certain stores of wealth. Wines are chosen by caprice; the products of
France have not always been equally esteemed; but there never was any
age, or people, that reckoned bread among superfluities, when once it
was known. The price of wheat and barley suffers not any variation, but
what is caused by the uncertainty of seasons.
I am far from intending to persuade my countrymen to quit all other
employments for that of manuring the ground. I mean only to prove, that
we have, at home, all that we can want, and that, therefore, we need
feel no great anxiety about the schemes of other nations for improving
their arts, or extending their traffick. But there is no necessity to
infer, that we should cease from commerce, before the revolution of
things shall transfer it to some other regions! Such vicissitudes the
world has often seen; and, therefore, such we have reason to expect. We
hear many clamours of declining trade, which are not, in my opinion,
always true; and many imputations of that decline to governours and
ministers, which may be sometimes just, and sometimes calumnious. But it
is foolish to imagine, that any care or policy can keep commerce at a
stand, which almost every nation has enjoyed and lost, and which we must
expect to lose as we have long enjoyed.
There is some danger, lest our neglect of agriculture should hasten its
departure. Our industry has, for many ages, been employed in destroying
the woods which our ancestors have planted. It is well known that
commerce is carried on by ships, and that ships are built out of trees;
and, therefore, when I travel over naked plains, to which tradition has
preserved the name of forests, or see hills arising on either hand
barren and useless, I cannot forbear to wonder, how that commerce, of
which we promise ourselves the perpetuity, shall be continued by our
descendants; nor can restrain a sigh, when I think on the time, a time
at no great distance, when our neighbours may deprive us of our naval
influence, by refusing us their timber.
By agriculture only can commerce be perpetuated; and by agriculture
alone can we live in plenty without intercourse with other nations.
This, therefore, is the great art, which every government ought to
protect, every proprietor of lands to practise, and every inquirer into
nature to improve.
CONSIDERATION ON THE CORN LAWS.
By what causes the necessaries of life have risen to a price, at which a
great part of the people are unable to procure them, how the present
scarcity may be remedied, and calamities of the same kind may, for the
future, be prevented, is an inquiry of the first importance; an inquiry,
before which all the considerations which commonly busy the legislature
vanish from the view.
The interruption of trade, though it may distress part of the community,
leaves the rest power to communicate relief: the decay of one
manufacture may be compensated by the advancement of another: a defeat
may be repaired by victory: a rupture with one nation may be balanced by
an alliance with another. These are partial and slight misfortunes,
which leave us still in the possession of our chief comforts. They may
lop some of our superfluous pleasures, and repress some of our
exorbitant hopes; but we may still retain the essential part of civil
and of private happiness--the security of law, and the tranquillity of
content. They are small obstructions of the stream, which raise a foam
and noise, where they happen to be found, but, at a little distance, are
neither seen nor felt, and suffer the main current to pass forward in
its natural course.
But scarcity is an evil that extends at once to the whole community:
that neither leaves quiet to the poor, nor safety to the rich; that, in
its approaches, distresses all the subordinate ranks of mankind; and, in
its extremity, must subvert government, drive the populace upon their
rulers, and end in bloodshed and massacre. Those who want the supports
of life will seize them wherever they can be found. If in any place
there are more than can be fed, some must be expelled, or some must be
Of this dreadful scene there is no immediate danger; but there is
already evil sufficient to deserve and require all our diligence and all
our wisdom. The miseries of the poor are such as cannot easily be borne;
such as have already incited them, in many parts of the kingdom, to an
open defiance of government, and produced one of the greatest of
political evils--the necessity of ruling by immediate force.
Caesar declared, after the battle of Munda, that he had often fought for
victory, but that he had, that day, fought for life. We have often
deliberated, how we should prosper; we are now to inquire, how we shall
The present scarcity is imputed, by some, to the bounty for exporting
corn, which is considered as having a necessary and perpetual tendency
to pour the grain of this country into other nations.
This position involves two questions: whether the present scarcity has
been caused by the bounty? and whether the bounty is likely to produce
scarcity in future times?
It is an uncontroverted principle, that "sublata causa tollitur
effectus;" if, therefore, the effect continues when the supposed cause
has ceased, that effect must be imputed to some other agency.
The bounty has ceased, and the exportation would still continue, if
exportation were permitted. The true reason of the scarcity is the
failure of the harvest; and the cause of exportation is the like failure
in other countries, where they grow less, and where they are, therefore,
always nearer to the danger of want.
This want is such, that in countries where money is at a much higher
value than with us, the inhabitants are yet desirous to buy our corn at
a price to which our own markets have not risen.
If we consider the state of those countries, which, being accustomed to
buy our corn cheaper than ourselves, when it was cheap, are now reduced
to the necessity of buying it dearer than ourselves, when it is dear, we
shall yet have reason to rejoice in our own exemption from the extremity
of this wide-extended calamity; and, if it be necessary, to inquire why
we suffer scarcity, it may be fit to consider, likewise, why we suffer
yet less scarcity than our neighbours.
That the bounty upon corn has produced plenty, is apparent:
Because, ever since the grant of the bounty, agriculture has increased;
scarce a sessions has passed without a law for enclosing commons and
Much land has been subjected to tillage, which lay uncultivated with
Yet, though the quantity of land has been thus increased, the rent,
which is the price of land, has generally increased at the same time.
That more land is appropriated to tillage, is a proof that more corn is
raised; and that the rents have not fallen, proves that no more is
raised than can readily be sold.
But it is urged, that exportation, though it increases our produce,
diminishes our plenty; that the merchant has more encouragement for
exportation than the farmer for agriculture.
This is a paradox which all the principles of commerce and all the
experience of policy concur to confute. Whatever is done for gain, will
be done more, as more gain is to be obtained.
Let the effects of the bounty be minutely considered.
The state of every country, with respect to corn, is varied by the
chances of the year.
Those to whom we sell our corn, must have every year either more corn
than they want, or less than they want. We, likewise, are naturally
subject to the same varieties.
When they have corn equal to their wants, or more, the bounty has no
effect; for they will not buy what they do not want, unless our
exuberance be such as tempts them to store it for another year. This
case must suppose that our produce is redundant and useless to
ourselves; and, therefore, the profit of exportation produces no
When they want corn, they must buy of us, and buy at a higher price: in
this case, if we have corn more than enough for ourselves, we are again
benefited by supplying them.
But they may want when we have no superfluity. When our markets rise,
the bounty ceases; and, therefore, produces no evil. They cannot buy our
corn but at a higher rate than it is sold at home. If their necessities,
as now has happened, force them to give a higher price, that event is no
longer to be charged upon the bounty. We may then stop our corn in our
ports, and pour it back upon our own markets.
It is, in all cases, to be considered, what events are physical and
certain, and what are political and arbitrary.
The first effect of the bounty is the increase of agriculture, and, by
consequence, the promotion of plenty. This is an effect physically good,
and morally certain. While men are desirous to be rich, where there is
profit there will be diligence. If much corn can be sold, much will be
The second effect of the bounty is the diminution by exportation of that
product which it occasioned. But this effect is political and arbitrary;
we have it wholly in our own hands; we can prescribe its limits, and
regulate its quantity. Whenever we feel want, or fear it, we retain our
corn, and feed ourselves upon that which was sown and raised to feed
It is, perhaps, impossible for human wisdom to go further, than to
contrive a law of which the good is certain and uniform, and the evil,
though possible in itself, yet always subject to certain and effectual
This is the true state of the bounty upon corn: it certainly and
necessarily increases our crops, and can never lessen them but by our
That, notwithstanding the bounty, there have been, from time to time,
years of scarcity, cannot be denied. But who can regulate the seasons?
In the dearest years we owe to the bounty that they have not been
dearer. We must always suppose part of our ground sown for our own
consumption, and part in hope of a foreign sale. The time sometimes
comes, when the product of all this land is scarcely sufficient: but if
the whole be too little, how great would have been the deficiency, if we
had sown only that part which was designed for ourselves!
"But, perhaps, if exportation were less encouraged, the superfluous
stores of plentiful years might be laid up by the farmer against years
This may be justly answered by affirming, that, if exportation were
discouraged, we should have no years of plenty. Cheapness is produced by
the possibility of dearness. Our farmers, at present, plough and sow
with the hope that some country will always be in want, and that they
shall grow rich by supplying. Indefinite hopes are always carried by the
frailty of human nature beyond reason. While, therefore, exportation is
encouraged, as much corn will be raised as the farmer can hope to sell,
and, therefore, generally more than can be sold at the price of which he
dreamed, when he ploughed and sowed.
The greatest part of our corn is well known to be raised by those, who
pay rent for the ground which they employ, and of whom, few can bear to
delay the sale of one year's produce to another.
It is, therefore, vain to hope that large stocks of grain will ever
remain in private hands: he that has not sold the corn of last year,
will, with diffidence and reluctance, till his field again; the
accumulation of a few years would end in a vacation of agriculture, and
the husbandman would apply himself to some more profitable calling.
If the exportation of corn were totally prohibited, the quantity,
possible to be consumed among us, would be quickly known, and, being
known, would rarely be exceeded; for why should corn be gathered which
cannot be sold? We should, therefore, have little superfluity in the
most favourable seasons; for the farmer, like the rest of mankind, acts
in hope of success, and the harvest seldom outgoes the expectation of
the spring. But for droughts or blights, we should never be provided:
any intemperature of seasons would reduce us to distress, which we now
only read of in our histories; what is now scarcity would then be
What would be caused by prohibiting exportation, will be caused, in a
less degree, by obstructing it, and, in some degree, by every deduction
of encouragement; as we lessen hope, we shall lessen labour; as we
lessen labour, we shall lessen plenty.
It must always be steadily remembered, that the good of the bounty is
certain, and evil avoidable; that by the hope of exportation corn will
be increased, and that this increase may be kept at home.
Plenty can only be produced by encouraging agriculture; and agriculture
can be encouraged only by making it gainful. No influence can dispose
the farmer to sow what he cannot sell; and, if he is not to have the
chance of scarcity in his favour, he will take care that there never
shall be plenty.
The truth of these principles our ancestors discovered by reason, and
the French have now found it by experience. In this regulation we have
the honour of being masters to those, who, in commercial policy, have
been long accounted the masters of the world. Their prejudices, their
emulation, and their vanity, have, at last, submitted to learn of us how
to ensure the bounties of nature; and it forms a strange vicissitude of
opinions, that should incline us to repeal the law which our rivals are
It may be speciously enough proposed, that the bounty should be
discontinued sooner. Of this every man will have his own opinion; which,
as no general principles can reach it, will always seem to him more
reasonable than that of another. This is a question of which the state
is always changing with time and place, and which it is, therefore, very
difficult to state or to discuss.
It may, however, be considered, that the change of old establishments is
always an evil; and that, therefore, where the good of the change is not
certain and constant, it is better to preserve that reverence and that
confidence, which is produced by consistency of conduct and permanency
That, since the bounty was so fixed, the price of money has been much
diminished; so that the bounty does not operate so far as when it was
first fixed, but the price at which it ceases, though nominally the
same, has, in effect and in reality, gradually diminished.
It is difficult to discover any reason why that bounty, which has
produced so much good, and has hitherto produced no harm, should be
withdrawn or abated. It is possible, that if it were reduced lower, it
would still be the motive of agriculture, and the cause of plenty; but
why we should desert experience for conjecture, and exchange a known for
a possible good, will not easily be discovered. If, by a balance of
probabilities, in which a grain of dust may turn the scale--or, by a
curious scheme of calculation, in which, if one postulate in a thousand
be erroneous, the deduction which promises plenty may end in famine;--
if, by a specious mode of uncertain ratiocination, the critical point at
which the bounty should stop, might seem to be discovered, I shall still
continue to believe that it is more safe to trust what we have already
tried; and cannot but think bread a product of too much importance to be
made the sport of subtilty, and the topick of hypothetical disputation.
The advantage of the bounty is evident and irrefragable. Since the
bounty was given, multitudes eat wheat who did not eat it before, and
yet the price of wheat has abated. What more is to be hoped from any
change of practice? An alteration cannot make our condition better, and
is, therefore, very likely to make it worse.
 These Considerations, for which we are indebted to Mr. Malone, who
published them in 1808, or rather to his liberal publisher, Mr.
Payne, were, in the opinion of Mr. Malone, written in November,
1766, when the policy of the parliamentary bounty on the exportation
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