THE SENTIMENTS OF A JUDGE ON THE
SOVEREIGNTY OF THE PEOPLE
To The Editor Of The Champion
Sir, - I have lately found among my papers, two letters written to me, nearly
forty years ago, by the elate Sir William JONES; and, as everything relating
to a character so highly distinguished for learning, talents, and patriotism,
must be interesting to every enlightened mind, I beg leave to offer you the
following copies for insertion in your valuable Sunday Paper.
I shall also be happy to produce to you the originals, under the
author's own hand, if any doubt should be entertained of their authenticity. The
year after these letters were written, this truly great man set off, in the
character of a Judge, for India, he having previously acquired a perfect knowledge
of the Persian language, as appeared by his elaborate productions on that
subject. The first of these letters bears the date, the 25th April, 1782, and
states as follows, viz.: -
"It is not till within these very few days, that I received, on my
return from the circuit, your obliging letter, dated the 18th of March; which,
had I been so fortunate as to receive it earlier, I should have made a point of
answering immediately. The Society for Constitutional Information, by
electing me one of their members, will confer upon me an honour which I am wholly
unconscious of deserving, but which is so flattering to me, that I accept it with
pleasure and gratitude. I should, indeed, long ago have testified my regard
for so useful an institution, by an offer of my humble services in promoting
it, if I had not really despaired, in my present situation, of being able to
attend your meetings as often as I should ardently wish.
My future life shall certainly be devoted to the support of that
excellent Constitution, which it is the object of your Society to unfold an
elucidate; and from this resolution, long and deliberately made, no prospects, no
connexions (sp.), no station here or abroad, no fear of danger of hope of
advantage to myself, shall ever deter or allure me. A fond Government, so apparently
conducive to the true happiness of the community, must be admired as soon as
it is understood, and if resort and virtue have any influence in human
breasts, ought to be preserved by any exertions at any hazard. Care must now be
taken, lest by reducing the Regal power to its just level, we raise the
Aristocratical to a dangerous height; since it is from the People alone that we can
deduce the obligations of our laws all the authority of Magistrates; on the People
depend the welfare, the security and the permanence of every legal government;
and to the People must all those in whose ability and knowledge we some
times, wisely, often imprudently, confide, be always accountable for the due
exercise of that power, with which they are for a time entrusted.
If the properties of all good government be considered as duly
distributed in the different parts of our limited Republic, goodness ought to be in
the distinguishing attribute of the Crown, wisdom of the Aristocracy, but power
and fortitude of the People. May justice and humanity prevail in them all!
It may not, perhaps, be impertinent, to inform you, that, as soon as the
variety of my engagements will allow me, I mean to present the public with
additional reasons for adopting the constitutional plan of defence, recommended in a
tract, entitled, An Enquiry Into the Legal Mode of Suppressing Riots, and, in a
short time afterwards, with an argument demonstrating the Illegality of
Pressing for the sea service. On these, and all other subjects for the same
tendency, the commands of the Society will not only be cheerfully obeyed, but even
thankfully received by, Sir, &c.
As the above letter is longer than I expected, I must postpone
transcribing the other till next week. In the mean time, I remain, Sir, your humble
fellow Labourer in the Cause of Reform, Thos. YEATES.
Middle Temple, Oct. 8th, 1819.