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Burke has asserted the right of the Parliament at the
Revolution to bind and control the nation and posterity for ever, he
denies at the same time that the Parliament or the nation had any right
to alter what he calls the succession of the crown in anything but in
part, or by a sort of modification. By his taking this ground he throws
the case back to the Norman Conquest, and by thus running a line of
succession springing from William the Conqueror to the present day, he
makes it necessary to enquire who and what William the Conqueror was,
and where he came from, and into the origin, history and nature of what
are called prerogatives. Everything must have had a beginning, and the
fog of time and antiquity should be penetrated to discover it. Let,
then, Mr. Burke bring forward his William of Normandy, for it is to this
origin that his argument goes. It also unfortunately happens, in running
this line of succession, that another line parallel thereto presents
itself, which is that if the succession runs in the line of the
conquest, the nation runs in the line of being conquered, and it ought
to rescue itself from this reproach.

But it will perhaps be said that though the power of declaring war
descends in the heritage of the conquest, it is held in check by the
right of Parliament to withhold the supplies. It will always happen when
a thing is originally wrong that amendments do not make it right, and it
often happens that they do as much mischief one way as good the other,
and such is the case here, for if the one rashly declares war as a
matter of right, and the other peremptorily withholds the supplies as a
matter of right, the remedy becomes as bad, or worse, than the disease.
The one forces the nation to a combat, and the other ties its hands;
but the more probable issue is that the contest will end in a collusion
between the parties, and be made a screen to both.

On this question of war, three things are to be considered. First, the
right of declaring it: secondly, the expense of supporting it: thirdly,
the mode of conducting it after it is declared. The French Constitution
places the right where the expense must fall, and this union can only
be in the nation. The mode of conducting it after it is declared,
it consigns to the executive department. Were this the case in all
countries, we should hear but little more of wars.

Before I proceed to consider other parts of the French Constitution,
and by way of relieving the fatigue of argument, I will introduce an
anecdote which I had from Dr. Franklin.

While the Doctor resided in France as Minister from America, during
the war, he had numerous proposals made to him by projectors of every
country and of every kind, who wished to go to the land that floweth
with milk and honey, America; and among the rest, there was one who
offered himself to be king. He introduced his proposal to the Doctor by
letter, which is now in the hands of M. Beaumarchais, of Paris--stating,
first, that as the Americans had dismissed or sent away*[6] their King,
that they would want another. Secondly, that himself was a Norman.
Thirdly, that he was of a more ancient family than the Dukes of
Normandy, and of a more honorable descent, his line having never been
bastardised. Fourthly, that there was already a precedent in England of
kings coming out of Normandy, and on these grounds he rested his offer,
enjoining that the Doctor would forward it to America. But as the Doctor
neither did this, nor yet sent him an answer, the projector wrote a
second letter, in which he did not, it is true, threaten to go over and
conquer America, but only with great dignity proposed that if his offer
was not accepted, an acknowledgment of about L30,000 might be made to
him for his generosity! Now, as all arguments respecting succession must
necessarily connect that succession with some beginning, Mr. Burke's
arguments on this subject go to show that there is no English origin of
kings, and that they are descendants of the Norman line in right of the
Conquest. It may, therefore, be of service to his doctrine to make this
story known, and to inform him, that in case of that natural extinction
to which all mortality is subject, Kings may again be had from Normandy,
on more reasonable terms than William the Conqueror; and consequently,
that the good people of England, at the revolution of 1688, might have
done much better, had such a generous Norman as this known their wants,
and they had known his. The chivalric character which Mr. Burke so much
admires, is certainly much easier to make a bargain with than a hard
dealing Dutchman. But to return to the matters of the constitution: The
French Constitution says, There shall be no titles; and, of consequence,
all that class of equivocal generation which in some countries is called
"aristocracy" and in others "nobility," is done away, and the peer is
exalted into the Man.

Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. The thing is
perfectly harmless in itself, but it marks a sort of foppery in the
human character, which degrades it. It reduces man into the diminutive
of man in things which are great, and the counterfeit of women in things
which are little. It talks about its fine blue ribbon like a girl, and
shows its new garter like a child. A certain writer, of some antiquity,
says: "When I was a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a
man, I put away childish things."

It is, properly, from the elevated mind of France that the folly of
titles has fallen. It has outgrown the baby clothes of Count and Duke,
and breeched itself in manhood. France has not levelled, it has exalted.
It has put down the dwarf, to set up the man. The punyism of a senseless
word like Duke, Count or Earl has ceased to please. Even those who
possessed them have disowned the gibberish, and as they outgrew the
rickets, have despised the rattle. The genuine mind of man, thirsting
for its native home, society, contemns the gewgaws that separate him
from it. Titles are like circles drawn by the magician's wand, to
contract the sphere of man's felicity. He lives immured within the
Bastille of a word, and surveys at a distance the envied life of man.

Is it, then, any wonder that titles should fall in France? Is it not a
greater wonder that they should be kept up anywhere? What are they? What
is their worth, and "what is their amount?" When we think or speak of
a Judge or a General, we associate with it the ideas of office and
character; we think of gravity in one and bravery in the other; but when
we use the word merely as a title, no ideas associate with it. Through
all the vocabulary of Adam there is not such an animal as a Duke or a
Count; neither can we connect any certain ideas with the words. Whether
they mean strength or weakness, wisdom or folly, a child or a man, or
the rider or the horse, is all equivocal. What respect then can be paid
to that which describes nothing, and which means nothing? Imagination
has given figure and character to centaurs, satyrs, and down to all
the fairy tribe; but titles baffle even the powers of fancy, and are a
chimerical nondescript.

But this is not all. If a whole country is disposed to hold them in
contempt, all their value is gone, and none will own them. It is
common opinion only that makes them anything, or nothing, or worse
than nothing. There is no occasion to take titles away, for they take
themselves away when society concurs to ridicule them. This species of
imaginary consequence has visibly declined in every part of Europe, and
it hastens to its exit as the world of reason continues to rise. There
was a time when the lowest class of what are called nobility was more
thought of than the highest is now, and when a man in armour riding
throughout Christendom in quest of adventures was more stared at than
a modern Duke. The world has seen this folly fall, and it has fallen
by being laughed at, and the farce of titles will follow its fate. The
patriots of France have discovered in good time that rank and dignity in
society must take a new ground. The old one has fallen through. It must
now take the substantial ground of character, instead of the chimerical
ground of titles; and they have brought their titles to the altar, and
made of them a burnt-offering to Reason.

If no mischief had annexed itself to the folly of titles they would not
have been worth a serious and formal destruction, such as the National
Assembly have decreed them; and this makes it necessary to enquire
farther into the nature and character of aristocracy.

That, then, which is called aristocracy in some countries and nobility
in others arose out of the governments founded upon conquest. It was
originally a military order for the purpose of supporting military
government (for such were all governments founded in conquest); and
to keep up a succession of this order for the purpose for which it
was established, all the younger branches of those families were
disinherited and the law of primogenitureship set up.

The nature and character of aristocracy shows itself to us in this law.
It is the law against every other law of nature, and Nature herself
calls for its destruction. Establish family justice, and aristocracy
falls. By the aristocratical law of primogenitureship, in a family
of six children five are exposed. Aristocracy has never more than one
child. The rest are begotten to be devoured. They are thrown to the
cannibal for prey, and the natural parent prepares the unnatural repast.

As everything which is out of nature in man affects, more or less,
the interest of society, so does this. All the children which the
aristocracy disowns (which are all except the eldest) are, in general,
cast like orphans on a parish, to be provided for by the public, but
at a greater charge. Unnecessary offices and places in governments and
courts are created at the expense of the public to maintain them.

With what kind of parental reflections can the father or mother
contemplate their younger offspring? By nature they are children, and
by marriage they are heirs; but by aristocracy they are bastards and
orphans.



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