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fectly free, like the farmers of Great Britain, than they are solicitous to limit the power of their princes: And, from the sentiments I have heard expressed by the French, I very much doubt, whether their high nobility would accept of the privileges of English peers, at the expense of that insolent superiority, and those licentious freedoms, with which they may, though no English peer can, treat with impunity the citizens and people of inferior rank.* We need be the less surprised at this, when we consider that, in some parts of the British empire, where the equable and generous laws of England prevail, those who set the highest value on freedom, who submit to every hardship, and encounter every danger, to secure it to themselves, never have shewn a disposition of extending its blessings, or even alleviating the bondage of that part of the human species, which a sordid and unjustifiable barter has brought into their power.
The court of Naples has not yet ventured, by one open act of authority, to abolish the immoderate power of the lords over their tenants. But it is believed that the minister secretly wishes for its destruction; and in cases of flagrant oppression, when complaints are brought before the legal courts, or directly to the king himself, by the peasants against their lord, it is generally remarked that the minister favours the complainant. Notwithstanding this, the masters have so many opportunities of oppress
Whatever justice may have been in this remark, when these letters were first published, it is now apparent that some of the first nobility of France entertain different sentiments from those here imputed to them.
Whether the French imbibed their love of freedom from their intercourse with British America, or from the progress of philosophy and good sense in their own country, a complete alteration in the political sentiments of the nation seems to have preceded the late revolution in their government; a revolution more extraordinary than any which the annals of mankind present to our admiration. The inhabitants of a great kingdom, in one instant, by an influence as sudden as that of electricity, are shocked at the idea of their being slaves: they start up and assert the rights of mankind to be free, and they are free! Long may they continue so, and may their example be followed by every nation now suffering under the scourge of despotism.
ing, and such various methods of teasing, their vassals, that they generally choose to bear their wrongs in silence; and perceiving that those who hold their lands immediately from the crown, are in a much easier situation than themselves, without raising their hopes to perfect freedom, the height of their wishes is to be sheltered, from the vexations of little tyrants, under the unlimited power of one common master. The objects of royal attention, they fondly imagine, are too sublime, and the minds of kings too generous, to stoop to, or even to countenance, in their servants, the minute and unreasonable exertions, which are wrung at present from the hard hands of the exhausted labourer.
Though the Neapolitan nobility still retain the ancient feudal authority over the peasants, yet their personal importance depends, in a great measure, on the favour of the king; who, under pretext of any offence, can confine them to their own estates, or imprison them at pleasure: and who, without any alleged offence, and without going to such extremes, can inflict a punishment, highly sensible to them, by not inviting them to the amusements of the court, or not receiving them with smiles when they attend on any ordinary occasion. Unless this prince were so very impolitic as to disgust all the nobility at once, and so unite the whole body against him, he has little to fear from their resentment. Even in case of such an union, as the nobles have lost the affection and attachment of their peasants, what could they do in opposition to a standing army of thirty thousand men, entirely devoted to the crown? The establishment of standing armies has universally given stability to the power of the prince, and ruined that of the great lords. No nobility in Europe can now be said to inherit political importance, or to act independent of, or in opposition to, the influence of the crown; except the temporal peers of that part of Great Britain called England.
As men of high birth are seldom, in this country, called to the management of public affairs, or placed in those
situations where great political knowledge is required; and as his majesty relies on his own talents and experience in war for the direction of the army; neither the civil nor military establishments open any very tempting field for the ambition of the nobles, whose education is usually adapted to the parts in life which they have a probability of acting. Their fortunes and titles descend to them, independent of any effort of their own. All the literary distinctions are beneath their regard; it is therefore not thought expedient to cloud the playful innocence of their childhood, or the amiable gaiety of their youth, with severe study. In some other countries, where a very small portion of literary education is thought ́ becoming for young men of rank, and where even this small portion has been neglected, they sometimes catch a little knowledge of history and mythology, and some useful moral sentiments, from the excellent dramatic pieces that are represented on their theatres. They also sometimes pick up some notion of the different governments in Europe, and a few political ideas, in the course of their travels. But the nobility of this country very seldom travel; and the only dramatic pieces, represented here, are operas; in which music, not sentiment, is the principal thing attended to. In the other theatrical entertainments, Punchinello is the shining character. To this disregard of literature among the nobles, it is owing, that in their body are to be found few tiresome, scholastic pedants, and none of those perturbed spirits, who ruffle the serenity of nations by political alarms, who clog the wheels of government by opposition, who pry into the conduct of ministers, or in any way disturb that total indifference with regard to the public, which prevails all over this kingdom. We are told by a great modern historian,* that force of mind, a sense of personal dignity, gallantry in enterprise, invincible perseverance in execu tion, contempt of danger and of death, are the characteristic virtues of uncivilized nations. But as the nobles of
• Vide Dr. Robertson's History of the Emperor Charles V, Sect. I.
this country have long been sufficiently civilized, these qualities may in them be supposed to have given place to the arts which embellish a polished age; to gaming, gallantry, music, the parade of equipage, the refinements of dress, and other nameless refinements.
THE citizens of Naples form a society of their own, perfectly distinct from the nobility; and although they are not the most industrious people in the world, yet, having some degree of occupation, and their time being divided between business and pleasure, they probably have more enjoyment than those, who, without internal resources, or opportunities of active exertion, pass their lives in sensual gratifications, and in waiting the returns of appetite around a gaming table. In the most respectable class of citizens, are comprehended the lawyers, of whom there are an incredible number in this town. The most eminent of this profession hold, indeed, a kind of intermediate rank between the nobility and citizens; the rest are on a level with the physicians, the principal merchants, and the artists; none of whom can make great fortunes, however industrious they may be; but a moderate income enables them to support their rank in society, and to enjoy all the conveniences, and many of the luxuries, of life.
England is perhaps the only nation in Europe where some individuals, of every profession, even of the lowest, find it possible to accumulate great fortunes; the effect of this very frequently is, that the son despises the profession of the father, commences gentleman, and dissipates, in a few years, what cost a life to gather. In the principal cities of Germany and Italy, we find, that the ancestors of many of those citizens who are the most eminent in their particular businesses, have transmitted the art to them through several generations. It is natural to imagine, that this will tend to the improvement of the art, or science, or pro
fession, as well as the family fortune; and that the third generation will acquire knowledge from the experience, as well as wealth from the industry, of the former two; whereas, in the cases alluded to above, the wheel of fortune moves differently. A man, by assiduity in a particular business, and by genius, acquires a great fortune and a high reputation; the son throws away the fortune and ruins his own character by extravagance; and the grandson is obliged to recommence the business, unaided by the wealth or experience of his ancestors. This, however, is pointing out an evil which I should be sorry to see remedied; because it certainly originates in the riches and prosperity of the country in which it exists.
The number of priests, monks, and ecclesiastics of all the various orders that swarm in this city, is prodigious; and the provision appropriated for their use, is as ample. I am assured, that the clergy are in possession of considerably above one-third of the revenue of the whole kingdom, over and above what some particular orders among them acquire by begging for the use of their convents, and what is gotten in legacies by the address and assiduity of the whole. The unproductive wealth, which is lodged in the churches and convents of this city, amounts also to an amazing value. Not to be compared in point of architecture to the churches and convents of Rome, those of Naples surpass them in riches, in the value of their jewels, and in the quantity of silver and golden crucifixes, vessels, and implements of various kinds. I have often heard these estimated at a sum so enormous as to surpass all credibility; and which, as I have no opportunity of ascertaining with any degree of precision, I shall not mention. This wealth, whatever it amounts to, is of as little use to the kingdom, as if it still remained in the mines of Peru; and the greater part of it, surely, affords as little comfort to the clergy and monks as to any other part of the community; for though it belongs to their church, or their convent, yet it can no more be converted to the use of the priests and monks of such churches and con