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improper. If any person sets up a plea of this sort in opposition to the rest, he is over-ruled, he gets ill-blood, and does no good: he is regarded as an interloper, a black sheep in the flock, and is either sent to Coventry, or obliged to acquiesce in the notions and wishes of those he associates and is expected to co-operate with. The refinements of private judgment are referred to and negatived in a committee of the whole body, while the projects and interests of the Corporation meet with a secret but powerful support in the self-love of the different members. Remonstrance-opposition, is fruitless, troublesome, invidious: it answers no one end : and a conformity to the sense of the company is found to be no less necessary to a reputation for good-fellowship than to a quiet life. “ Self-love and social” here look like the same; and in consulting the interests of a particular class, which are also your own, there is even a show of public virtue. He who is a captious, impracticable, dissatisfied member of his little club or coterie, is immediately set down as a bad member of the community in general, as no friend to regularity and order, “ a pestilent fellow," and one who is incapable of sympathy, attachment, or cordial co-operation in any department or undertaking. Thus the most refractory novice in such matters becomes weaned from his obligations to the larger society, which only breed him inconvenience without any adequate recompense, and wedded to a nearer and dearer one, where he finds every kind of comfort and consolation. He contracts the vague and unmeaning character of Man into the more emphatic title of Freeman and Alderman. The claims of an undefined humanity sit looser and looser upon him, at the same time that he draws the bands of his new engagements closer and tighter about him. He loses sight, by degrees, of all common sense and feeling in the petty squabbles, intrigues, feuds, and airs, of affected importance to which he has made himself an accessary. He is quite an altered man. “ Really the society were under considerable obligations to him in that last business ;” that is to say, in some paltry job or under-hand attempt to encroach upon the rights, or dictate to the understandings of the neighbourhood. In the mean time, they eat, drink, and carouse together. They wash down all minor animosities and unavoidable differences of opinion in pint-bumpers; and the complaints of the multitude are lost in the clatter of plates and the roaring of loyal catches at every quarter's meeting or mayor's feast. The town-hall reels with an unwieldy
sense of self-importance: “ the very stones prate” of processions: the common pump creaks in concert with the uncorking of bottles and tapping of beer-barrels : the market-cross looks big with authority. Every thing has an ambiguous, upstart, repulsive air. Circle within circle is formed, an imperium in imperio : and the business is to exclude from the first circle all the notions, opinions, ideas, interests, and pretensions, of the second. Hence there arises not only an antipathy to common sense and decency in those things where there is a real opposition of interest or clashing of prejudice, but it becomes a habit and a favourite amusement in those who are “ dressed in a little brief authority,” to thwart, annoy, insult, and harass others on all occasions where the least opportunity or pretext for it occurs. Spite, bickerings, back-biting, insinuations, lies, jealousies, nicknames, are the order of the day, and nobody knows what it's all about. One would think that the mayor, aldermen, and liverymen, were a higher and more select species of animals than their townsmen; though there is no difference whatever but in their gowns and staff of office! This is the essence of the esprit de corps. It is certainly not a very delectable source of contemplation or subject to treat of.
Public bodies are so far worse than the individuals composing them, because the official takes place of the moral sense. The nerves that in themselves were soft and pliable enough, and responded naturally to the touch of pity, when fastened into a machine of that sort, become callous and rigid, and throw off every extraneous application that can be made to them with perfect apathy. An appeal is made to the ties of individual friendship: the body in general know nothing of them. A case has occurred which strongly called forth the compassion of the person who was witness of it: but the body (or any special deputation of them) were not present when it happened. These little weaknesses and “ compunctious visitings of nature" are effectually guarded against, indeed, by the very rules and regulations of the society, as well as by its spirit. The individual is the creature of his feelings of all sorts, the sport of his vices and his virtues—like the fool in Shakespear, “ motley's his proper wear:”—corporate bodies are dressed in a moral uniform; mixed motives do not operate there, frailty is made into a system, “ diseases are turned into commodities.” Only so much of any one's natural or genuine impulses can influence him in his artificial capacity as formally comes home to
the aggregate conscience of those with whom hę acts, or bears upon the interests (real or pretended), the importance, respectability, and professed objects of the society. Beyond that point the nerve is bound up, the conscience is seared, and the torpedo-touch of so much inert matter operates to deaden the best feelings and harden the heart. Laughter and tears are said to be the characteristic signs of humanity. Laughter is common enough in such places as a set-off to the mock-gravity: but who ever saw a public body in tears ?. Nothing but a job or some knavery can keep them serious for ten minutes together*.
Such are the qualifications and the appren. ticeship necessary to make a man tolerated, to enable him to pass as a cypher, or be admitted as a mere numerical unit, in any corporate
* We sometimes see a whole play-house in tears. But the audience at a theatre, though a public assembly, are not a public body. 'They are not incorporated into a frame-work of exclusive, narrow-minded interests of their own. Each individual looks out of his own insignificance at a scene, ideal per. haps, and foreign to himself, but true to nature; friends, strangers, meet on the common ground of humanity, and the tears that spring from their breasts are those which “ sacred pity has engendered.” They are a mixed multitude melted into sympathy by remote, imaginary events, not a combination cemented by petty views, and sordid, selfish prejudices.