To suppress this, laws, Acts of Parliament, and proclamations are baubles and banters, the laughter of the lewd party, and never had, as I could perceive, any influence upon the practice; nor are any of our magistrates fond or forward of putting them in execution.
It must be example, not penalties, must sink this crime; and if the gentlemen of England would once drop it as a mode, the vice is so foolish and ridiculous in itself, it would soon grow odious and out of fashion.
This work such an academy might begin, and I believe nothing would so soon explode the practice as the public discouragement of it by such a society; where all our customs and habits, both in speech and behaviour, should receive an authority. All the disputes about precedency of wit, with the manners, customs, and usages of the theatre, would be decided here; plays should pass here before they were acted, and the critics might give their censures and damn at their pleasure; nothing would ever die which once received life at this original. The two theatres might end their jangle, and dispute for priority no more; wit and real worth should decide the controversy, and here should be the infallible judge.
The strife would then be only to do well, And he alone be crowned who did excel. Ye call them Whigs, who from the church withdrew, But now we have our stage dissenters too, Who scruple ceremonies of pit and box, And very few are sound and orthodox, But love disorder so, and are so nice, They hate conformity, though 'tis in vice. Some are for patent hierarchy; and some, Like the old Gauls, seek out for elbow room; Their arbitrary governors disown, And build a conventicle stage of their own. Fanatic beaux make up the gaudy show, And wit alone appears incognito. Wit and religion suffer equal fate; Neglect of both attends the warm debate. For while the parties strive and countermine, Wit will as well as piety decline.
Next to this, which I esteem as the most noble and most useful proposal in this book, I proceed to academies for military studies, and because I design rather to express my meaning than make a large book, I bring them all into one chapter.
I allow the war is the best academy in the world, where men study by necessity and practice by force, and both to some purpose, with duty in the action, and a reward in the end; and it is evident to any man who knows the world, or has made any observations on things, what an improvement the English nation has made during this seven years' war.
But should you ask how clear it first cost, and what a condition England was in for a war at first on this account--how almost all our engineers and great officers were foreigners, it may put us in mind how necessary it is to have our people so practised in the arts of war that they may not be novices when they come to the experiment.
I have heard some who were no great friends to the Government take advantage to reflect upon the king, in the beginning of his wars in Ireland, that he did not care to trust the English, but all his great officers, his generals, and engineers were foreigners. And though the case was so plain as to need no answer, and the persons such as deserved none, yet this must be observed, though it was very strange: that when the present king took possession of this kingdom, and, seeing himself entering upon the bloodiest war this age has known, began to regulate his army, he found but very few among the whole martial part of the nation fit to make use of for general officers, and was forced to employ strangers, and make them Englishmen (as the Counts Schomberg, Ginkel, Solms, Ruvigny, and others); and yet it is to be observed also that all the encouragement imaginable was given to the English gentlemen to qualify themselves, by giving no less than sixteen regiments to gentlemen of good families who had never been in any service and knew but very little how to command them. Of these, several are now in the army, and have the rewards suitable to their merit, being major-generals, brigadiers, and the like.