The Picture of Party


Omnia venalia Romae. Sallust.

The effervescence of Party, like the motion of the Sea, is never entirely at rest. Party is a Fever that robs the wretch under its influence, of common sense, common decency, and sometimes common honesty; it subjects reason to the caprices of fancy, and misrepresents objects.—The jaundiced Eye, which paints things yellow, does not more abuse us, in the quality of colours, than Party, in those of moral ideas.
++We blame and pity bigotry and enthusiasm in religion; we justly censure the wild excesses and cruelties, injustice and murders they are guilty of;—are Party principles less reprehensible? that in a worse cause, are apt to intoxicate and disorder the brain, and pervert the understanding; they come to set a community at variance, father against son, and son against father; they dissolve in a moment the solidest friendships, and as soon create them, be the objects never so unworthy; the vilest scurrility and basest practices, in favour of their cause, give the author a title to their heart, their purse, and their interest; the fairest fame is rendered Infernal; and the foulest Angelic;—That is called Genius, which without the magnifying medium of Party, had never been ranked with common sense; and Genius, through the other end of the perspective, appears remote, little, and to great disadvantage. Lying, and every tractable vice, become virtues! whilst obstinate truth and inflexible virtue in the opposition, are vices! which may ruin or render contemptible the conscientious possessor. As men of honour, (I had almost said—Christians, but that is unfashionable and obnoxious to ridicule) how can we practice illiberal methods, or exercise any mode of corruption, to purchase the wicked or weak, or make them so; by promise or malice, bribery or any art of delusion, to unite them to a cause, whose only merit perhaps depend on our honour, and exists but during our resentment.
++How great were the public spirit! how meritorious the atchievement! would some Conjuror, Clerical or Lay, from the pulpit or the press, so effectually exert the voice of reason, as to break the charm, dispel the infatuation, and restore mankind to their senses, saying—ye are brethren, why should ye hate and devour each other!
++I will now venture to treat you, as Christians, how dare you, in that temper of mind, the spirit of malice and revenge, approach the altar of peace and brotherly love, or call for a Curse, whilst you make, in your petitions to the throne of Grace, you own forgiveness of others, a condition of your pardon, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us”, and can’t we forgive a friend or neighbour that follows the dictates of conscience? when the laws of our country indulge with a privilege to act conscientiously, if peaceably and constitutionally; and which they render sacred, by guarding it with penalties, that we would condemn an undue influence over ourselves, as cruel, despotic, and unjust, how can we think to deprive others of the like freedom? Force on the mind, in a political as well as a religious cause, lifts Proselytes, as it were, by a press-warrant, whose desertion may be hourly expected, on the first favourable opportunity; the heart is not convinced, the will is led captive; they may never wear the appearance of service, they may make though specious yet, reluctant concessions, “their hands are guilty, yet their heart is free!” and what is this but taking away the boasted liberty of a Briton? rendering insincerity familiar and habitual, and opening the door to a thousand enormities, that may sometime end in the ruin or slavery of this unhappy kingdom.
++To the author of these reflections, some may object party motives; but consider, that a wise man is glad to learn a hint, or find improvement, from an enemy; Truth, like wit and charity, is of no party or country, but a citizen of the world, and a general well-wisher to mankind; as such, I am,
++Sir, yours &c.
+++++++A.Z.  [William Bickerstaffe]