George Atherton Aitken.

The life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians online

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republican orators and monarchs. Fourthly, between the
people of free governments and their magistrates ; but not
between monarchs and then- individual subjects. I have shown
that antiquity abounds with examples of all those kinds.

Homer has given us a very pompous and decent representa-
tion of the altercation of the divinities in a full assembly :
•Juno tells Jupiter, that he was quite insufferable, surly and
reserved as to her ; though that hussy, Venus, would get it out
of him. Jupiter as sharply rebukes her for her curiosity, and
at last threatens her with a little corporal correction ; and
which is most strange, poor Vulcan the blacksmith seems to
be the only civil person in the whole assembly, (according to
the modern notion of civility) for he speaks to his mother not
to disturb good company. Another time, when Juno was
reproaching Jupiter for being hard-hearted to her, in not letting
her get her will of the Trojans, he tells her politely, ' I vnsh
you had Priamus and all his children raw in your guts.'
Neptune rails at his brother Jupiter most bitterly ; * Let him,'
quoth he, ' govern his own bastards, and not meddle out of his
province.' What a terrible scuffle amongst those deities, when
Jupiter gave them leave each to act according to his own
inclination in the Trojan War ! What scolding, kicking,
tripping up of heels ! Minerva calls Mars a blockhead, &e.
^Aj^ollo calls Neptune a fool, &c. Jupiter all the


while shaking his sides with hiughter, well judging that it
was necessary to give the divinities proper opportunities to
vent their sj^leen at each other ; nor does it appear that there
was ever any offence taken at words.

In this chapter, for the benefit of the ladies, I have made a
collection of epithets in use amongst the divinities, proper on
parallel occasions ; for sure no person of quality can think
herself abused in the language of the goddesses ?

Homer, according to his usual propriety of manners and
sentiments, introduceth his hei-oes talking in the same dialect.
Achilles, the first word, calls Agamemnon covetous, impudent,
cunning fox, Volpone, as you might say, (which I have observed,
has always been a fatal word for raising sedition) dog-eyed,
deer-hearted, drunken sot. Agamemnon answers very sharply,
' be gone with your Myrmidons, I will take your wench from
you in spite of j^our teeth.' The poet imagined no less than
three scolding bouts necessary to support this episode, and
makes Jupiter approve of the termagant spirit of Achilles on
all these occasions. Hector, without any offence, chides his
brother Paris, (who by the way wanted not courage) for being
too handsome, well dressed, and a favourite of the ladies, &c.
Ulysses rebukes Agamemnon most sharply for proposing a
retreat, and Agamemnon thanks him for it.

This laudable right of objurgation descended to the heroes
of latter times, which they used with great freedom in terms
which, for time immemorial, have been in fashion in the
place of my nativity.

Philip, King of Macedon, asserted this right of scolding as
a conqueror, after the Battle of Cheronsea, indulged his joy
for the victory by getting extremely drunk, dancing all night
in the field of battle, and going from rank to rank calling
his prisoners names ; Damades, one of them, with the same
decent freedom, told Philip, that he acted the part of Thersites,
rather than that of Agamemnon. Philip, sensible that his
prisoner might still use his tongue, which was not disarmed,
was highly delighted with the smartness of the repartee, and
for the sake of this hon mot dismissed the prisoners without
ransom, though by the way, there was not so much in it, for
Agamemnon was both a great scold and a great captain.

When polite learning revived in this pai-t of the world,
about the time of Charles the Fifth and Francis the First, both

c c


those monarchs asserted their right of altercation : tlie lie
was given, but though the language was quite polite, the chal-
lenge was gothic. There has been an instance of the same
nature in our own days, and I was quite ashamed to see men
of polite literature censure the proceeding.

I have likewise collected many of the polite compliments of
republican ambassadors and orators to monarchs : that of De-
mochares the Athenian ambassador, who, when King Philip
asked him and his colleagues if there was any thing in which
he could serve them, smartly replied, 'go hang yourself, that
is the greatest service you can do us ' : and indeed, though it
sounds uncouth to a modern ear, it was the greatest compli-
ment he could make ; for it was as much as to say, you must
be the terror of the Athenians as long as you live.

King Philip honoured Demosthenes with the title of the
rampart of Athens, (an appellation superior to any yet bestowed
upon our Craftsman) and yet Demosthenes was so far from
being corrupted by his compliment, that he continued to
exercise the rights of his function with his usual politeness
and frankness. The epithets he bestows upon Philip are
perfidious, perjured, barbarous usurper ; a cheat ; wickedness
in the abstract ; a wretched Macedonian, born in a corner of
the world where one could not so much as purchase a good
slave ; that his court (no doubt a very polite one) was com-
posed of parasites, prostitutes, robbers, bardashes, good-for-
nothing rascals, Athenian exiles, mountebanks, pantomimes,
harlequins, ballad-makers that revelled and danced after an
obscene manner ; that Philip himself was what we call a
sodomite, that his son Alexander was an idiot, &c. As for
the jus alfercationis, the mutual right of scolding amongst
publick orators, Demosthenes was so far from giving it up, or
complaining of it, that he only reprimands the orators on the
other side for making their exordiums of calling names too
long, and not coming sooner to their motion. He distinguisheth
judiciously between accusation and invective ; the first being
the allegation of a crime punishable by law, and the last, some
loose reflections which people, in the heat of discourse, thought
incumbent upon them to make upon their antagonists.
Eschines calls heaven and earth to witness, that none of the
rogues and wizards of former times ever come up to the
villany of Demosthenes ; he repi'oaches him for taking a box


on the ear, and compounding it for thn-ty marks ; that he was
a coward, and run away at the Battle of Cheronaea ; he calls him
wild beast, iron-head, and tells him that his grandfather was
a banished felon, his mother a barbarous Scythian, and him-
self a pitiful attorney that took money on both sides ; a hang-
man that had murdered his landlord, &c. Demosthenes
returns his compliments with 'cheat, disgrace of human
nature, a poor scrivener's clerk, pettifogger, cesspool of vice,
how should you have any learning ? was not your father
Elpias's slave, and your mother a common strumpet, till she
had the happiness to be kept by a hautboy, and was afterwards
known by the name of the old witch ? You pitiful slave of a
poor schoolmaster, where all your employment was sweeping
the school, because you are used to drubbing yourself; poor
wretched stroller, you call me coward, forsooth, because I am
not inured to such dangers : if it was not for fear of offending
against good manners 'for which I am noted) I would use you
as you deserve, you impudent ■wretch.' By good manners
here, is meant sincerity, in opposition to what we call com-
pliments, which would have been deemed an abuse.

The orators exercised the same jurisdiction over their
audience. Demosthenes twits the Athenians often ■^^^th the
simplicity of the manners of their ancestors ; calls them a
parcel of lazy drones, framers of votes and resolutions, news-
mongers, tuneservers, spendthrifts, ragamuffins, who would
do any thing for money to spend in their diversions. There
is nothing gives a stronger idea of the politeness of the ancient
altercation compared with the modern forms of civility, than
French translations ; that of a very learned person skilled
in both languages runs thus, 'Messieurs (gentlemen) you are
a pack of scoundrels.'

What relates to our present circumstances are speeches
against incendiaries, and against ministers, of both which I
have made a choice collection out of that Eoman orator Tully.
I hope the incendiaries mil not disdain the polite treatment
of Catiline and company, of being the dregs, the jakes, the
sink, the common sevrer of the republic. Nor the other
side that of Verres, L. Piso, or Anthony, men of the highest
dignity. I take Verres, {the subject of a whole volume of
orations) to have been much such a man as a Governor of
one of our plantations or factories, who, one may say, did not

C c 2


go over to learn the language ; a lover of fine painting,
statues, &c. ; v^^hat one vi^ould nowadays call a fine gentle-
man, veiy avaricious because expensive. Tully, who certainly
knew the rules of decorum better than any man of his time,
apostrophizeth this fine gentleman in the usual terms of Ai"t,
wicked fellow, thief, robljer, prevaricator, traitor, whore-
master, impudent, mad, audacious fellow, monster, prodigy of
wickedness. When he allows a neutrality, in not attacking
him on some of his vices, it is only to save the honour and
reputation of families whose wives and daughters he had
debauched, and the amours of his youth, because of their
turpitude ; he tells him that the villanies of all the condemned
criminals in the world could not equal the smallest part of
his guilt. He goes on with a description of his youth spent
in rioting, whoring, and drinking. What a work doth he
make with the spiriting away a fiddler ? There is not a town
in which he had not a whore, a picture, or a statue. A great
part of some of the oi-ations seem to be a pai-ticular of his
estate and household-goods. There is hardly a vessel, candle-
stick, picture, lamp, statue, carpet, &c. a bribe received, or
a present given, but is mentioned by our orator. Why so
many pots of honey ? Why so many beds ? . . .

Then he falls upon his person, and calls his audience to
obsei-ve the imj)udence of his looks ; tells you how he became
the favourite of all the porters, footmen, and chambermaids :
not contented with his censure of the gentleman himself, he
falls upon his friends, acquaintance and company, particularly
a poor fellow, one Corbo that was dead, whom he calls all to
naught. Then he tells the judges, that they had now an
opportunity to clear themselves with the people from the
infamy with which their whole order was charged, and yet he
was not called to the bar, being before men of taste and judg-
ment, who understood the sacred inviolable right of liberty of
speech. What a polite, noble, plain bluntness reigns through
all those orations ? who could take it ill to be corrected in such
well-chosen epithets, and well-turned periods ?

His oration on L. Piso, I think, far exceeds those upon
Verres ; in those genuine flowei's of ancient rhetoric, it is
much to be regretted that some of the first sentences are
wanting ; however it begins bluntly enough. ' Beast, don't you
see how the audience is offended at your impudent coun-


tenance?' Then goes on with a descrii^tion of his complexion,
beard, rotten teeth, brazen face, stuj)idity, impediment of
speech. The orator, after having done himself justice, and
expatiated upon his own extraordinaiy merits, tells him, that
instead of consul, he was the tomb, the funeral-pile of the
common-wealth. ' Thou hangman, thou temple-robber, thou
clod of earth ; from what brothel did thou come up in pattens
(soleatus) muffled up, with thy breath smelling of the stews ? '
It seems the great subject of quarrel was, L. Piso having
ordered the senate to leave off their mourning for Tully, when
he was in distress ; he tells him, ' you answered, forsooth, with
one eye-brow turned up to your forehead, and the other
depressed to your chin, that you did not love cruelty ; you
did not love cruelty, you kennel-raker, you gibbet-carrier ;
you a consul, issuing out of a dark cellar with a dancing
wench ; you forbid the people to mourn for me ; could one
have any assistance from thee, thou beast, lump of rotten
flesh, block, trunk, madman, fool ? When thy colleague's
house rung with riot, and noise, and dancing, thou wast
weltering (like one of the Lapithfe) in thy own spew ; so that
no body could tell whether thou drank, vomited, or . . . most.'
If I remember right, our orator, in one of his philippics,
describes much such another evacuation of Anthony in the
forum, tells him how he vomited, where it was a shame for a
magister equituni, captain-general of the horse, to belch. It
is much to be regretted, that our language is neither strong
nor copious enough to do justice to this excellent oratory in
a translation. I can appeal to all the mati'ons in my neigh-
bourhood, if such compellations as I have mentioned, are not
far beyond our little sneaking expression, 'the unfortunate
gentleman at the bar.' At the same time, I need not be at
much pains to convince my readers that those who declaimed
in this style, understood the rules of decorum and true oratory ;
and those who suffered these objurgations, did not want
courage, nor were ignorant of the rules of honour.

Anthony, in murdering Tully, was censured by the Romans,
rather for being cajotious, than revengeful ; for not understand-
ing common modes of behaviour amongst gentlemen, more
than for want of generosity.

I own that there is no reconciling most of this sort of
altercation, nor the anger from which it proceeds, with the


Christian morals ; yet many Presbyters, Bishoi:)s, Popes, and
some recorded as saints, have naturally fallen into it. But a
collection of their epithets and compellations would be too
voluminous ; and as they are rather in the sacred than political
style, as little devil, imp of Satan, cursed heretic, &c.,
abounding with anathemas, curses, and execrations, they are
not so apposite to my design. I shall only take the liberty to
observe that if gentlemen will not lay aside this captious,
quarrelsome temper, there will be an absolute necessity of
putting the monopoly of political altercation in the hands of
such of the clergy whose persons are sacred, and who are not
tied down to the ridiculous, corrupt maxims of laics in
gothic governments. And any attempts of this kind are so far
from being blame-worthy, that they ought to be highly
applauded, as decent, convenient, and charitable.

My next chapter is spent upon the usefulness and necessity
of such altercations in all governments. First, as it allows
the people the means of working off their passions in a way,
which is least detrimental to the common-wealth : The Eomans,
from their intimate knowledge of human nature, were so
sensible of this, that they allowed even their slaves their annual
season of scolding : it is now by custom grown to be sab-
batical in Britain ; but if the legislature should think it more
proper to confine it to the month of December and the Christmas
holy-days, according to the custom of ancient Kome, nobody
could find fault ; provided there be care taken of due evacu-
ations of the poutical bile, in proper seasons.

The same prudential considerations induced the Eomans to
allow the soldiers to sing abusive ballads upon their general
in the procession of his triumph, which no doubt prevented
many a mutiny. How much did the soldiers endear them-
selves unto Caesar by celebrating his filthy amours on that
occasion ?

There is some footsteps of this polite custom continue still
in our fleet ; for the seamen have a privilege of railing and
joking on their officers at the careening of a ship, an objur-
gation truly classical in a double sense.

As to ministers, 'tis only a small tax on then- power and
riches ; a sort of memento mori ; a warning like the barking
of a dog before he bites. It was the saying of a great man,
That there were but few ministers who had not done some-


thing for which they deserved to be hanged ; and I believe
there are hardly any that do not deserve some classical

This altercation contributes exceedingly to the vigour of the
administration, like the je-ho to loitering horses, that lug
along the wheels of the government.

'Tis of no less benefit to such as censure, than to those that
govern, in presei-%'ing their purity of manners, because (ac-
cording to Tully himself) the title of an accuser to his
right of altercation is founded upon his own innocence of
those crimes which he lays to the charge of his adversaries.

The price of the book in sheets is ten shillings, one half to
be paid down ; only the polemical writers on each side
shall have one copy gratis ; and my cousin Ginglicutt have

Eeceipts will be delivered at Mr. Franklin's, Mr. Roberts's,
Mr. Warner's, Mr. Peele's, and at most of the book and
pamphlet-sellers in London and Westminster.


Preached to the people at the Mercat Cross of Edin-

THE Act for uniting the two Kingdoms was depending



Setting forth the advantages which have, in fact,
accrued to the kingdom of scotland by its union
with England.

O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint. — Virg.


The following little piece was printed at Edinburgh in
the year 1706, while the Act for the union of the two
Kingdoms was depending before the Parhament there. The
author seems to have been thoroughly acquainted with the
interests of his native country : a vein also of good sense
runs through the whole: it is therefore hoped, that the
reprinting of it may be of some sei-vice now, to undeceive
those honest Scots who will rather attend to the still voice
of reason, than the noisy clamours of a giddy multitude. To
promote this end, it may be proper to make a few more
obsei-vations on the advantages that have, in fact, accrued
to the kingdom of Scotland by its union with England :
these I shall briefly trace as they lie in the Articles of Union.

By the second article, the succession to the United Monarchy
of Great Britain was settled upon the Princess Sophia and
the heirs of her body, being Protestants ; and all Papists, or

' The title of the original 4'' Year 1 706. The preface was written

pamphlet was as follows : A Sermon by Buncombe in 1745, when the

preached to the people at the Mercai-Cross Sermon was reprinted. See page

of Edinburgh ; on the subject of the Union. 30. The Sermon has sometimes been

Eccles. chap. 10, ver. 27. Printed in the attributed to Sir David Dalrymple.


persons marrying Papists, are for ever excluded from the

This article must and will be considered as a singular benefit
by Protestants of all denominations, who know their own
interest ; especially as the Protestant branch of the Royal
Family is now so numerous : as for bigoted Papists, we must
allow them to look upon it as a great grievance ; for they
always have, and always will think they are persecuted them-
selves, unless they have the power of persecuting others.
But the moderate Catholics (and such I make no doubt
there are,) who are friends to the civil rights and liberties of
mankind, have no reason to be displeased with it, since they
are treated with the utmost lenity by the British Government.

By the fourth article, it is provided that all the subjects
of the United Kingdom shall, from and after the Union, have
full freedom and intercourse of trade and navigation to or
from any poii or place within the said United Kingdom, and
the dominions and plantations thereunto belonging.

By the seventh article, Scotland is liable to less excise than
England ; for a barrel of beer or ale (containing thirty-four
gallons English measure, and twelve gallons Scotch measure)
is never to pay more than two shilHngs sterling excise-duty ;
whereas strong beer and ale now pay in England about four
shillings and four pence per barrel.

By the ninth article, whenever the sum of one million,
nine hundred, ninety-seven thousand, seven hundred and
sixty pounds, odd shillings and pence, shall be raised in
England on land, (at four shillings in the pound,) and on
other things usually charged in Acts of Parliament there,
for granting an aid to the crown, by a land-tax ; Scotland
is to be charged only with the further sum of forty-eight
thousand pounds.

The propoi-tion of Scotland to England is here but as one
to forty-one, whereas we shall find by the twenty-second ai-ticle
that the proportion of Scotland to England in the House of
Peers' of Great Britain, is one to thii-teen, and, in the House
of Commons ''■ nearly as one to eleven and one-third.

By the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth articles, Scotland was
exempted from several duties then payable in England :

' There were about 208 English, "^ Supposing 513 English and 45

and 16 Scotch Peers. Scotch members.


viz., by article the tenth, from the payment of the duties
on stamp paper, vellum, and parchmeiat : by article the
eleventh, from the duties payable in England on windows
and lights : by article the twelfth, from the duties payable
in England on coals, culm, cinders.

By the fifteenth article, the sum of three hundred, ninety-
eight thousand, and eighty-five pounds, ten shillings, was
agreed to be granted to Scotland, as an equivalent for contri-
buting to debts contracted by England before the union.
Which said sum was accordingly paid, and apphed towards
discharging the pubHc debts of Scotland, and encouraging the
fisheries, manufactures, and improvements in Scotland, with
other purposes, as particularly mentioned in the article here
referred to.

By the eighteenth article, no alteration was to be made
in the laws which concern private right.

By the nineteenth article, the Court of Session, and other
Courts in Scotland, are confirmed ; and no causes in Scotland
are cognizable by the Courts of Westminster Hall in England.

By the twentieth article, all heritable offices and offices
for life are reserved to the owners as rights of j)roperty.

By the twenty-first article, the rights of the Eoyal Burghs
in Scotland shall remain entire.

By the twenty-second article, sixteen of the Peers of Scotland,
to be elected by the whole body, were to sit and vote in the
House of Lords of the United Kingdom, and forty-five
Commoners in the House of Commons ; and the ParHament
is not to meet till fifty days after proclamation.

By comparing this article with the ninth we shall find
that Scotland has about a twelfth share in the legislative
power, whereas it contributes but a fortieth part towards the
land and malt-taxes, and much less for the customs and
other duties.

By the twenty-third article, all the Peers of Scotland were
to be Peers of Great Britain, and to enjoy all privileges as
fully as the Peers of England, except only sitting in the
House of Lords, and upon trials of Peers, which privileges
Avere reserved to the sixteen Peers only.

So much for the articles.

I shall now mention some farther advantages which the
people of Scotland enjoyed by their union with England.


They cany on a veiy advantageous commerce with the
English phmtations, by wliich the city of Glasgow and many
other ports of the Western Coast have greatly enriched them-
selves ; which occasions a circulation of money throughout
the whole kingdom.

England is the only mart for their linens, for which the
English pay above £200,000 per annum. And the Scots, by
their exemption from all duties, are enabled to sell them at
20 per cent, less disadvantage than, the English can sell
foreign linens of the same goodness.

They supply England also with black cattle, sheep, coals,
and many other articles of their own product.

They are much easier taxed than even the Northern Counties
of England.

If they have not the pomp and splendour of a court at
Edinburgh, neither, on the other hand, do they contribute
to the support of it. For all, or the far greater part, of the
taxes raised in Scotland (if I am not misinformed; are distri-
buted among the natives of it.

They enjoy great security from foreign wars, for, as they
have no fleet of their own, they must be exposed to continual

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 35 of 47)