From the Candid Philosopher, printed in the year 1778. ON THE PROCRESS OF LIBETRY IN FRANCE.
HOWEVER the present age may have receded from genuine piety, it has certainly m•de the most rapid advances in a freedom and liberality of sentiment, which do honour to human nature. The French nation has particularly distinguished itself in this respect. Its writers display a vigour of thought they have till now been almost strangers to. They plead the cause of human nature, and assert man's natural •ights, with an energy and warmth that seem to indicate the speedy downfal of that vast fabric of superstition and error, that has hitherto so greatly obstructed the progress of free Page 135enquiry, and chilled even the emotions of huma∣nity. What writer of any nation can express him∣self with greater zeal for the sovereignty of the laws, against the blind will of the monarch, the ty∣ranny of ministers, or the clamour of a mob, than to lay this down as a just maxim? "Le glaire re∣doubtable de la justice n'a point ete deposed•ns les mains des magistrats, pour venger des haines parti∣•ul•eres, ni meme pour suivre les monvemens de I indignation publique. ••e•t a LA LOI SEULE appartient de marquer les victimes; et si les cla∣meurs d'une multitude aveugle et passionn•e pou∣voint decider les juges a prononcer one Peine ca∣pitale, I innocence pren•oit la place du crime. et il n'y auroit plus de surete pour le citoyen." These are just and excellent sentiments; but they are not peculiar to this writer. The greater part of his coun∣trymen now think with the same freedom, and speak with the same force. This liberal spirit has a great∣er tendency to exalt the French nation than all the military operations of their much boasted Lewis XIV. whose glories sunk, and whose victories im∣poverished, the kingdom he sought to strengthen and enrich. However, as Englishmen, we may la∣ment the dawing splendor of the French monarchy, enlighte'ed by the Sun of science; yet, as citizens of the universe, we must rejoice at the great and glorious effects produced by the genius of liberty, that can turn Siberia's deserts into Albion's fertile plains; unlock the sources of plenty and bliss, and change brutes and slaves into men and heroes!