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For the Literary Magazine.

critical remarks on austin's
letters from london.

Letters from London, written in
1802 and 1803, by William Austin.

MR. AUSTIN is a politician.
He is one of those who annex
great importance to forms of go-
vernment, and suppose most of the
vices and virtues, evils and felicities
of mankind to arise from their poli-
tical condition. He is a friend to
the democratic system, and thinks
the American constitution not only
best in itself, but to be best adminis-
tered by those who hold the public
offices, and bear legislative sway, at

The author's acknowledged pur-
pose is to compare the state of Eng-
land with that of the United States,
in order to evince the superior hap-
piness and dignity of his native
country. What renders this work
chiefly curious or original, is the re-
presentation of impressions such as
manners and appearances in Eng-
land would make upon a native of
New England. The inferences
drawn by the writer are frequently
indeed peculiar to that part of the
United States, and he would some-
times lead a foreigner into errors,
by speaking of New England and its
institutions, as if they were common
to all parts of the union. It is well
known, that in every thing which
can distinguish one civilised commu-
nity from another, there is a far
wider difference between the east-

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ern and the southern states of Ame-
rica, than can be found between
America and England.

The great and fundamental error
in this work will be thought by
many to consist in the influence as-
cribed to government over the ha-
bits and manners of the people.
What others would trace to the
state of population and the arts, he
is too apt to attribute to the preva-
lence of monarchy and aristocracy
or democracy. He is tinctured with
the principles of what has been
sometimes called the new philoso-
phy, and which represents the
whole structure of society to depend
entirely in the manner which design
or accident has distributed political
power. Almost ever page exhibits
some example of this way of think-

The following is new to us:

“Most of those magnificent
houses round London, which, proud-
ly retiring from the city for the
benefit of air and prospect, seem
built as much with a view to exter-
nal grandeur as to domestic conve-
nience, are so completely guarded
with high brick walls, that you
might imagine the baron's wars had
not yet terminated, for his house, in
a double sense, is the owner's castle.
Nor can you look into their gardens
by reason of the fortifications;
though you frequently see an elevat-
ed sign at the corner, requesting
you to take notice that “man traps
are placed there.

“The houses in the city, even if
they enjoy ten feet of rear ground,
suffer the inconvenience of dark,
confined air, by reason of high walls,
the tops of which are usually ce-
mented with broken glass bottles:
I do not say to guard against their

“The security of the house in
which I reside is guarantied in the
following manner. The door has
a double lock, a chain, and two
bolts, beside an alarum bell, which
is carefully fixed to the pannel every
night. A watchman, if he does his
duty, passes by the door once in
thirty minutes. Another watchman

is stationed in the yard, and doomed
to perpetual imprisonment with a
chain round his neck.”

The following reflections on the
Jews are highly honourable to Mr.
Austin's judgment and sagacity:

“I have bestowed not a little
street reflection on this miserable
race, and feel disposed to speak a
word in their favour. If we con-
template their situation, even in
England, where they are less per-
secuted than in any other country,
except the United States, we shall
find them indirectly driven to prey
on the public, and compelled, by their
disabilities, to a continual counterac-
tion. Eligible to no office, incapable
of holding land, or even of possess-
ing a house, with the additional
hardship of being despised, they are
a sort of Indian Parias, and are ab-
solutely proscribed from the social
compact, and reduced to a state
worse than that of simple nature,
for, in opening their eyes to their
condition, they find nothing on which
to rest but the canopy of heaven.
Now, I would appeal to Tully's Of-
fices, or even to Dr. Johnson, if a
man thus situated by force, insidi-
ously legalised under the sanction
of law
, ought to be honest; and
whether a man thus circumstanced,
would not have a moral right to
countervail, by every means in his
power. Under such restrictions,
can a Jew be expected to philan-
thropise, or, in the moment of bene-
volence, can his heart wander out of
the precincts of his own nation,
when early sentiments have neces-
sarily been contaminated by all the
arts of low commerce to which his
nation is reduced? A benevolent
Hebrew would be a monster. Hence,
a Jew's passion cannot be reputation
of any kind, but must concentre in
money. Therefore, Shakespeare's
imaginary Shylock is not exactly
true to nature: a Jew, in such a
case, would have accepted all the
money he could have extorted, and
have foregone his revenge. Yet
this imaginary Shylock has preju-
diced thousands of christians, who
never saw a Jew, against the whole

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tribe of Israel: while those very
christains, who read the story of a
certain duke, who demanded a large
sum of money from a Jew, and ex-
torted four of his teeth before he
could extort the money, are greatly
surprised at the Jew's obstinacy
In short, the Jews owe the christians
nothing but hatred and revenge,
whether they revert back to for-
mer times, or regard the present.

“The operation of those disabili-
ties and restrictions, which the chris-
tian imposes on the Jew, is just what
ought to be expected. Is a house on
fire, he is happy to see it, the old nails
afford a speculation. Crimes, for
aught he cares, may multiply with
impunity, he is the last to inform:
who ever heard of a Jew informer?
The more thieves, the more dis-
tress, the more boundless extrava-
gance, the fairer the prospect; to
him private vices are public bene-
fits. Is the nation ruined, he has
nothing to lament, having no tie, no
amor patriæ, no attachment; but he
is not quite ready to leave the coun-
try; a nation in ruins is a Jew fair.

“If the Jews were more disposed
to agriculture, they might find, in
the United States, a resting place,
and, notwithstanding their religion,
they might flourish as well there as
at Jerusalem, or on the more favou-
rite banks of the Jordan.”

This work abounds with amusing
and instructive passages. Some
eminent persons are described with
considerable eloquence. The great
luminaries of the English bar, Ers-
kine, Gibbs, and Garrow, are pour-
trayed with much force.

The cast of politics with which
this work is overspread, will recom-
mend it to some, and depreciate its
usefulness and merit to others; but
all will probably be pleased, and
that in no small degree, with the
moral and descriptive portions of
the work. Much information, in
detail, must not be expected from
it. It is a moral and political des-
cant, in which characters, scenes,
and incidents are introduced by way
of illustration. These, though few,

are entertaining and judicious. The
following portrait of the quakers is
entitled to no small praise:

“There is no class of people, in
England, holden in less respect than
the quakers; yet I have seen no
sect, in this country, with whom I
have been more pleased. With
respect to the rest of the world, the
quakers certainly are a hopeless and
barren set of people. They hate
equally kings and priests. Their con-
sciences revolt at tythes in any shape,
therefore the clergy hate them….
Their own meditations serve them
instead of preaching, therefore the
religious of most other denomina-
tions dislike them. Their tempe-
rance laughs at the physician, and
their honesty starves the lawyer,
while their prudence and foresight
exalt them above the active, injuri-
ous hatred of the world, and elevate
them above those who despise them.

“Their decency of carriage, their
unassuming manners, their habitual
economy, and general spirit of equi-
ty, have long, and will, perhaps,
for ever, connect them together in a
body, co-existent with their present

“There is one characteristic
which distinguishes the quakers
from all other sects: they discover
nothing of the spirit of proselytism;
their favourite sentiments partake
nothing of enthusiasm; they hurl
no damnation on the rest of the
world; tolerant to every body, they
consider all honest men their bre-
thren. There is not a single trait
in their character incentive to ill-
will, nor a movement in their con-
duct which has ever courted perse-
cution. Their humility has never
resisted even oppression; in suffer-
ing patient, they are active only in
support of their principles. Remote
from all hypocrisy, they have never
sought after temporal power, nor
has their own system ever operated
to the prejudice of others. Yet this
sect has been persecuted, and its
members been put to death!* the

  * In New England.

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blackest stigma on human nature
with which the annals of politics or
religion have been stained.

“Though they live under a mo-
narchy, they have contrived, with
the sacrifice of all temporal favours,
to erect themselves into a govern-
ment of their own, approaching as
near to republic as is consistent with
any sort of allegiance to the current
government. This is a master-piece
of policy which has gained them a
firm standing in the midst of their
enemies, and which ought to teach
the rest of mankind that it is prac-
ticable for a virtuous, persevering
few to counteract the many. The
quakers have contrived to render
themselves happy in the midst of
misery, and free, in a great mea-
sure, in the midst of slavery….
Hence they have all that natural,
unaffected dignity, and all that
manly, cordial spirit of accommo-
dation which man discovers to man
before he becomes degenerate: and
hence they regard mankind pretty
much as that Cherokee did, who,
being introduced at Paris, and shown
every thing which was supposed ca-
pable of delighting or surprising
him, was asked, after his eyes had
swallowed the objects of a whole
week's exhibition, “What astonish-
ed him most?” answered, “The
difference between man and man:”
and then being questioned “With
what he was most delighted?” an-
swered, “He was most delighted to
see a passenger help a heavy bur-
den upon the back of another.”

“Although the quakers approach
nearer to the religion of nature, not-
withstanding their correspondence
with the world, than any systematic
sect which has ever appeared, they
still hold to the great principles of
the christian religion, though, in
point of orthodoxy, they can hardly
be termed christians. Most others,
whether eastern sages or western
saints, have retired from the world
in the degree they have approached
brama or Jesus, while the quakers,
contented with this world until they

can find a better, have found the
secret of living in the midst of so-
ciety, and of mingling as much of
this world as is consistent with hea-
ven, and as much of heaven as is
consistent with making the most of
this world.

“I have been led to these obser-
vations from a petty circumstance
which occurred yesterday. I found,
on my table, the following printed
notice: “Some of the people, called
quakers, intend to hold a meeting
this evening, at their place of wor-
ship, in Martin's court, St. Martin's
Lane, to which the neighbours are
invited.” In expectation of some-
thing extraordinary, I attended….
At the door I was received by one
of the friends, who introduced me
to a seat among the elders. The
house was soon filled, and a profound
silence reigned for a few minutes,
when one of the brethren rose, and
began to speak, but he had not spo-
ken a minute, when an elder said,
“We would take it kind of thee,
friend, to sit down.” The speaker
looked up to see whence the disap-
probation proceeded, then nodding,
in acquiescence, sat down. Pre-
sently, a fine looking, elderly lady,
of matronly appearance, dressed in
the most elegant simplicity, rose,
and, after a warm and impressive
prayer, delivered, extempore, an
animated and edifying discourse,
with a flow of elocution, and grace
of manner, which, had she been
forty years younger, might have in-
flamed those passions she sought to

“There is one defect in the po-
lity of the quakers, which will for
ever subject them to the tyranny of
the times….they love peace so well
they will not even fight for their li-
berty. This known principle di-
vests them of all political conse-
quence, when those great political
movements are agitated, which
sometimes involve the deepest con-
sequences to society: otherwise,
the quakers would gradually effect
a revolution throughout the world.”

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