DEAR BOY: Your friend, Mr. Eliot, has dined with me twice since I returned here, and I can say with truth that while I had the seals, I never examined or sifted a state prisoner with so much care and curiosity as I did him. Nay, I did more; for, contrary to the laws of this country, I gave him in some manner, the QUESTION ordinary and extraordinary; and I have infinite pleasure in telling you that the rack which I put him to, did not extort from him one single word that was not such as I wished to hear of you. I heartily congratulate you upon such an advantageous testimony, from so creditable a witness. 'Laudati a laudato viro', is one of the greatest pleasures and honors a rational being can have; may you long continue to deserve it! Your aversion to drinking and your dislike to gaming, which Mr. Eliot assures me are both very strong, give me, the greatest joy imaginable, for your sake: as the former would ruin both your constitution and understanding, and the latter your fortune and character. Mr. Harte wrote me word some time ago, and Mr. Eliot confirms it now, that you employ your pin money in a very different manner, from that in which pin money is commonly lavished: not in gew-gaws and baubles, but in buying good and useful books. This is an excellent symptom, and gives me very good hopes. Go on thus, my dear boy, but for these next two years, and I ask no more. You must then make such a figure and such a fortune in the world as I wish you, and as I have taken all these pains to enable you to do. After that time I allow you to be as idle as ever you please; because I am sure that you will not then please to be so at all. The ignorant and the weak are only idle; but those who have once acquired a good stock of knowledge, always desire to increase it. Knowledge is like power in this respect, that those who have the most, are most desirous of having more. It does not clog, by possession, but increases desire; which is the case of very few pleasures.
Upon receiving this congratulatory letter, and reading your own praises, I am sure that it must naturally occur to you, how great a share of them you owe to Mr. Harte's care and attention; and, consequently, that your regard and affection for him must increase, if there be room for it, in proportion as you reap, which you do daily, the fruits of his labors.
I must not, however, conceal from you that there was one article in which your own witness, Mr. Eliot, faltered; for, upon my questioning him home as to your manner of speaking, he could not say that your utterance was either distinct or graceful. I have already said so much to you upon this point that I can add nothing. I will therefore only repeat this truth, which is, that if you will not speak distinctly and graceful, nobody will desire to hear you. I am glad to learn that Abbe Mably's 'Droit Public de l'Europe' makes a part of your evening amusements. It is a very useful book, and gives a clear deduction of the affairs of Europe, from the treaty of Munster to this time. Pray read it with attention, and with the proper maps; always recurring to them for the several countries or towns yielded, taken, or restored. Pyre Bougeant's third volume will give you the best idea of the treaty of Munster, and open to you the several views of the belligerent' and contracting parties, and there never were greater than at that time. The House of Austria, in the war immediately preceding that treaty, intended to make itself absolute in the empire, and to overthrow the rights of the respective states of it. The view of France was to weaken and dismember the House of Austria to such a degree, as that it should no longer be a counterbalance to that of Bourbon. Sweden wanted possessions on the continent of Germany, not only to supply the necessities of its own poor and barren country, but likewise to hold the balance in the empire between the House of Austria and the States. The House of Brandenburg wanted to aggrandize itself by pilfering in the fire; changed sides occasionally, and made a good bargain at last; for I think it got, at the peace, nine or ten bishoprics secularized. So that we may date, from the treaty of Munster, the decline of the House of Austria, the great power of the House of Bourbon, and the aggrandizement of that of Bradenburg: which, I am much mistaken, if it stops where it is now.
Make my compliments to Lord Pulteney, to whom I would have you be not only attentive, but useful, by setting him (in case he wants it) a good example of application and temperance. I begin to believe that, as I shall be proud of you, others will be proud too of imitating you: Those expectations of mine seem now so well grounded, that my disappointment, and consequently my anger, will be so much the greater if they fail; but as things stand now, I am most affectionately and tenderly, Yours.
DEAR BOY: Your reflections upon the conduct of France, from the treaty of Munster to this time, are very just; and I am very glad to find, by them, that you not only read, but that you think and reflect upon what you read. Many great readers load their memories, without exercising their judgments; and make lumber-rooms of their heads instead of furnishing them usefully; facts are heaped upon facts without order or distinction, and may justly be said to compose that
'-----Rudis indigestaque moles Quem dixere chaos'.
Go on, then, in the way of reading that you are in; take nothing for granted, upon the bare authority of the author; but weigh and consider, in your own mind, the probability of the facts and the justness of the reflections. Consult different authors upon the same facts, and form your opinion upon the greater or lesser degree of probability arising from the whole, which, in my mind, is the utmost stretch of historical faith; certainty (I fear) not being to be found. When a historian pretends to give you the causes and motives of events, compare those causes and motives with the characters and interests of the parties concerned, and judge for yourself whether they correspond or not. Consider whether you cannot assign others more probable; and in that examination, do not despise some very mean and trifling causes of the actions of great men; for so various and inconsistent is human nature, so strong and changeable are our passions, so fluctuating are our wills, and so much are our minds influenced by the accidents of our bodies that every man is more the man of the day, than a regular consequential character. The best have something bad, and something little; the worst have something good, and sometimes something great; for I do not believe what Velleius Paterculus (for the sake of saying a pretty thing) says of Scipio, 'Qui nihil non laudandum aut fecit, aut dixit, aut sensit'. As for the reflections of historians, with which they think it necessary to interlard their histories, or at least to conclude their chapters (and which, in the French histories, are always introduced with a 'tant il est vrai', and in the English, SO TRUE IT IS, do not adopt them implicitly upon the credit of the author, but analyze them yourself, and judge whether they are true or not.
But to return to the politics of France, from which I have digressed. You have certainly made one further reflection, of an advantage which France has, over and above its abilities in the cabinet and the skill of its negotiators, which is (if I may use the expression) its SOLENESS, continuity of riches and power within itself, and the nature of its government. Near twenty millions of people, and the ordinary revenue of above thirteen millions sterling a year, are at the absolute disposal of the Crown. This is what no other power in Europe can say; so that different powers must now unite to make a balance against France; which union, though formed upon the principle of their common interest, can never be so intimate as to compose a machine so compact and simple as that of one great kingdom, directed by one will, and moved by one interest. The Allied Powers (as we have constantly seen) have, besides the common and declared object of their alliance, some separate and concealed view to which they often sacrifice the general one; which makes them, either directly or indirectly, pull different ways. Thus, the design upon Toulon failed in the year 1706, only from the secret view of the House of Austria upon Naples: which made the Court of Vienna, notwithstanding the representations of the other allies to the contrary, send to Naples the 12,000 men that would have done the business at Toulon. In this last war too, the same causes had the same effects: the Queen of Hungary in secret thought of nothing but recovering of Silesia, and what she had lost in Italy; and, therefore, never sent half that quota which she promised, and we paid for, into Flanders; but left that country to the maritime powers to defend as they could. The King of Sardinia's real object was Savona and all the Riviera di Ponente; for which reason he concurred so lamely in the invasion of Provence, where the Queen of Hungary, likewise, did not send one-third of the force stipulated, engrossed as she was by her oblique views upon the plunder of Genoa, and the recovery of Naples. Insomuch that the expedition into Provence, which would have distressed France to the greatest degree, and have caused a great detachment from their army in Flanders, failed shamefully, for want of every one thing necessary for its success. Suppose, therefore, any four or five powers who, all together, shall be equal, or even a little superior, in riches and strength to that one power against which they are united; the advantage will still be greatly on the side of that single power, because it is but one. The power and riches of Charles V. were, in themselves, certainly superior to those of Frances I., and yet, upon the whole, he was not an overmatch for him. Charles V.'s dominions, great as they were, were scattered and remote from each other; their constitutions different; wherever he did not reside, disturbances arose; whereas the compactness of France made up the difference in the strength. This obvious reflection convinced me of the absurdity of the treaty of Hanover, in 1725, between France and England, to which the Dutch afterward acceded; for it was made upon the apprehensions, either real or pretended, that the marriage of Don Carlos with the eldest archduchess, now Queen of Hungary, was settled in the treaty of Vienna, of the same year, between Spain and the late Emperor Charles VI., which marriage, those consummate politicians said would revive in Europe the exorbitant power of Charles V. I am sure, I heartily wish it had; as, in that case, there had been, what there certainly is not now, one power in Europe to counterbalance that of France; and then the maritime powers would, in reality, have held the balance of Europe in their hands. Even supposing that the Austrian power would then have been an overmatch for that of France (which, by the way, is not clear), the weight of the maritime powers, then thrown into the scale of France, would infallibly have made the balance at least even. In which case too, the moderate efforts of the maritime powers on the side of France would have been sufficient; whereas now, they are obliged to exhaust and beggar themselves; and that too ineffectually, in hopes to support the shattered; beggared, and insufficient House of Austria.