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The persons most interested in the decision have made some attempts, and persisted in them long; and, perhaps, it is the only question of equal interest from which no satisfactory result has followed. The experiments to determine it, which have been tried
the largest scale, we owe to two classes of benefactors, those who dispense health, and those who dispense riches. For above a century the former had all the trouble to themselves, but of late years the distributors of wealth have run the race with them, and with such vigour, that if the question is not soon brought to a decision, we are afraid it never will.
One reason, perhaps, why the experiment is yet only in a progressive state, may be the obstinacy of a considerable part of mankind, who persist in the antient and dilatory modes of regaining health and acquiring riches ; such as temperance, taking regular advice, and cultivating habits of honest and contented industry. While this continues to be the case, while we distrust the infallibility of a little pill, or the certainty of a great prize, the gentlemen abovementioned will always take the number of fools at too high a rate, and at the same time afford us reason to think, that we take the number of rogues at too low. By this neither party
will be much benefited. How the evil is to be remedied I know not. As a PROJECTOR, however, I am bound to propose a something, and I can propose nothing more likely to succeed than an Act of Parliament, commanding an unfeigned assent and consent to all and every proposition submitted to the publick, for the cure of disease or poverty. Who, indeed, can read a quack bill, or a lottery bill, and not think it intolerable to hear of the agonies of disease, or the squalor of poverty ? Who can temperately listen to the complaints of men in pain, or in debt, of men unable to move a limb, or to pay a bill, and at the same time read the infallible remedies and benevolent offers which decorate, not to speak of other places, the walls of the Royal Exchange? There must be something more in this inconsistency “ than good men think for,” since it is impossible that aches and rheums, that starvation and rags, can be more eligible than health and riches, plenty and independence, things notoriously offered every day, and for such small sums, that the benevolent dispensers of these blessings not only adapt themselves to the lowest understanding, but to the lowest pocket.
In considering the comparative numbers of rogues and fools, some are inclined to think that the latter are upon the increase ; they seem to consider the parties as agreeing to intermarry
propagate the breed. Although I am not entirely of this opinion, yet I allow that many attempts have been made in the
way of marriage, and perhaps these marriages have been prolific. It is no less certain, that the parties are so naturally connected, that the one cannot exist without the other; and it is equally certain, and absolutely requisite, that the number of fools should always greatly exceed that of rogues. And whatever the exact proportions may be (for no pike will ever tell us how many of the small fry he has swallowed), it seems not improbable that there is at present a sufficient supply of fools; for, however reluctant and hesitating, it cannot be doubted that the numerous addresses made to them in the ways above mentioned, are in a considerable degree successful.
But whether their number be actually increasing, is yet a doubtful point. I am rather inclined to think, that folly has not of late received
remarkable additions; and my reason for this opinion is, what would perhaps at first sight lead to an opposite conclusion. In proportion, however, to the pains taken to
practise deception, it seems not unnatural to conclude that deception is losing ground. When it becomes necessary to insult common sense in new and unheard-of ways, we may be certain that the old and accustomed methods have lost their effect. In opposition, therefore, to the ingenious writers and gratuitous publishers whose works I have humbly endeavoured to commemorate in this paper, I would suggest to them, that it is possible they may be mistaken in their calculations. · But far be it from me, to destroy the whole of their doctrine. I would only hint that all the world, themselves excepted, may not be fools; and that among the classes over whom they think they have most influence, there may be some not entirely destitute of common sense; a few who have been wise enough to profit by experience; and many more who can feel an insult to their understandings with as much keepness as the wise men who offer it. They ought also to recollect, that even in folly there are degrees, and that the fools upon whom they calculate, are perhaps no fools in the article at which they principally aim. A single act of folly, such as they prompt, may not lead to idiotism; and because a man has once been deceived, it does not follow that he should cherish the deceit or the deceiver. Still let them not be discouraged by these suggestions. Erroneous as their calculations are, they may be confident that new modes of address will produce new converts. They may at all times rely upon folly and idleness, and not unfrequently upon profligacy and despair.