THE Poor Man's PLEA To all the Proclamations, Declarations, Acts of Parliament, &c. WHICH Have been, or shall be made, or publish'd, for a Reformation of Manners, and suppressing Immorality in the Nation.

The Second Edition Corrected.

LONDON: Printed for A. Baldwin, near the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane. MDCXCVIII.


REformation of Manners is a Work so Honourable, and at This Time so absolutely ne­cessary, that, like the Reform of our Money, it can be no longer delayed.

The Ways by which the present Tor­rent of Vice has been let in upon the Nation, and by which it maintains the Tyranny it has usurp'd on the Lives of the Inhabitants, are too plain to be hid. The following Sheets aim at the Work, by leading to the most direct means, Viz. Reformation by Example. Laws are, in Terrorem Punishments, and Magi­strates [Page] Compel and put a Force upon Mens Minds; but Example is Per­suasive and Gentle, and draws by a Secret, Invisible, and almost Involuntary Power.

If there can be any Remedies propo­sed more proper to bring it to pass, they that know them would do well to bring them forth. In the mean time the Au­thor thinks Conscience in the Minds of Men Impartially Consulted, will give a Probatum to the following Propo­sal; and to that Iudgment he refers all those who Object against it.

D. F.

THE Poor Man's PLEA TO All the Proclamations, Declarations, Acts of Parliament, &c. which have been, or shall be made, or publish'd, for a Reformation of Manners, and sup­pressing Immorality in the Nation.

IN searching for a proper Cure of an Epide­mick Distemper, Physicians tell us 'tis first necessary to know the Cause of that Distemper, from what Part of the Body, and from what ill Habit it proceeds; and when the Cause is discover'd, it is to be removed, that the Effect may cease of it self; but if removing the Cause will not work the Cure, then indeed they proceed to apply proper Remedies to the Disease it self, and the particular part afflicted.

Immorality is without doubt the present reigning Distemper of the Nation: And the [Page 2] King and Parliament, who are the proper Physicians, seem nobly inclin'd to undertake the Cure. 'Tis a Great Work, well worthy their utmost Pains: The Honour of it, were it once perfected, would add more Trophies to the Crown, that all the Victories of this Bloody War, or the Glories of this Honourable Peace.

But as a Person under the Violence of a Dis­ease sends in vain for a Physician, unless he re­solves to make use of his Prescription; so in vain does the King attempt to reform a Nation, unless they are willing to reform themselves, and to submit to his Prescriptions.

Wickedness is an Ancient Inhabitant in this Country, and 'tis very hard to give its Original.

But however difficult that may be, 'tis easy to look back to a Time when we were not so generally infected with Vice as we are now; and 'twill seem sufficient to enquire into the Causes of our present Defection.

The Protestant Religion seems to have an un­question'd Title to the first introducing a strict Morality among us; and 'tis but just to give the Honour of it where 'tis so eminently due. Re­formation of Manners has something of a Natu­ral Consequence in it from Reformation in Reli­gion: For since the Principles of the Protestant Religion disown the Indulgencies of the Roman [Page 3] Pontiff, by which a Thousand Sins are, as Venial Crimes, bought off, and the Priest, to save God Almighty the trouble, can blot them out of the Ac­count before it comes to his hand; common Vices lost their Charter, and men could not sin at so cheap a Rate as before. The Protestant Re­ligion has in it self a natural tendency to Virtue, as a standing Testimony of its own Divine Ori­ginal, and accordingly it has very much suppress'd Vice and Immorality in all the Countries where it has had a Footing: It has civiliz'd Nations, and re­form'd the very Tempers of its Professors: Chri­stianity and Humanity has gone hand in hand in the World; and there is so visible a difference between the other Civiliz'd Governments in the World, and those who now are under the Pro­testant Powers, that it carries its Evidence in it self.

The Reformation, begun in England in the days of King Edward the sixth, and afterwards gloriously finished by Queen Elizabeth, brought the English Nation to such a degree of Humanity, and Sobriety of Conversation, as we have reason to doubt will hardly be seen again in our Age.

In King Iames the First's time, the Court af­fecting something more of Gallantry and Gaiety, Luxury got footing; and Twenty Years Peace, together with no extraordinary Examples from [Page 4] the Court, gave too great Encouragement to Licentiousness.

If it got footing in King Iames the First's time, it took a deep Root in the Reign of his Son; and the Liberty given the Soldiery in the Civil War, dispers'd all manner of Prophane­ness throughout the Kingdom. That Prince, though very Pious in his own Person and Pra­ctice, had the Misfortune to be the first King of England, and perhaps in the whole World, that ever establish'd Wickedness by a Law: By what unhappy Council, or secret ill Fate he was gui­ded to it, is hard to determine; but the Book of Sports, as it was called, that Book to tolerate the Exercise of of all sorts of Pastimes on the Lord's Day, tended more to the vitiating the Practice of this Kingdom, as to keeping that Day, than all the Acts of Parliament, Proclamations, and Endeavours of future Princes have done, or perhaps ever will do, to reform it.

And yet the People of England express'd a general sort of Aversion to that Liberty; and some, as if glutted with too much Freedom, when the Reins of the Law were taken off, refused that Practice they allow'd themselves in be­fore.

[Page 5] In the time of King Charles the Second, Lewd­ness and all manner of Debauchery arriv'd at its Meridian: The Encouragement it had from the Practice and Allowance of the Court, is an invincible Demonstration how far the Influence of our Governors extends in the Practice of the People.

The present King and his late Queen, whose Glorious Memory will be dear to the Nation as long as the World stands, have had all this wicked Knot to unravel. This was the first thing the Queen set upon while the King was engaged in his Wars abroad: She first gave all sorts of Vice a general Discouragement; and on the contrary, rais'd the value of Virtue and Sobriety by her Royal Example. The King having brought the War to a Glorious Conclu­sion, and settled an Honourable Peace, in his very first Speech to his Parliament proclaims a New War against Prophaneness and Immora­lity, and goes on also to discourage the Practice of it by the like Royal Example.

Thus the Work is begun nobly and regular­ly; and the Parliament, the General Represen­tative of the Nation, readily pursues it by en­acting Laws to suppress all manner of Pro­phaneness, &c.

These are Great Things, and well improv'd, [Page 6] would give an undoubted Overthrow to the Tyranny of Vice, and the Dominion Prophane­ness has usurp'd in the hearts of men.

But we of the Plebeii find our selves justly aggriev'd in all this Work of Reformation; and the Partiality of this Reforming Rigor makes the real Work impossible: Wherefore we find our selves forced to seek Redress of our Grie­vances in the old honest way of Petitioning Heaven to relieve us: And in the mean time, we solemnly Enter our Protestation against all the Vicious Part of the Nobility and Gentry of the Nation; as follows:

First, We Protest, That we do not find im­partially enquiring into the matter, and speaking of Moral Gooodness, that you are one jot better than we are, your Dignities, Estates and Quality except­ed. 'Tis true, we are all bad enough, and we are willing in good Manners to agree, that we are as wicked as you; but we cannot find on the exactest Scutiny, but that in the Com­monwealth of Vice, the Devil has taken care to level Poor and Rich into one Class, and is fairly going on to make us all Graduates in the last degreee of Immorality.

Secondly, We do not find that all the Procla­mations, Declarations, and Acts of Parliament yet made, have any effective Power to punish you [Page 7] for your Immoralities, as they do us. Now, while you make Laws to punish us, and let your selves go free, though guilty of the same Vices and Immoralities, those Laws are unjust and unequal in themselves.

'Tis true, the Laws do not express a Liber­ty to you and Punishment to us; and therefore the King and Parliament are free, as King and Parliament, from this our Appeal; but the Gentry and Magistrates of the Kingdom, while they execute those Laws upon us the poor Com­mons, and themselves practising the same Crimes, in defiance of the Laws both of God and Man, go unpunish'd; This is the Grievance we pro­test against, as unjust and unequal.

Wherefore, till the Nobility, Gentry, Justi­ces of the Peace, and Clergy, will be pleased either to reform their own Manners, and sup­press their own Immoralities, or find out some Method and Power impartially to punish them­selves when guilty, we humbly crave leave to object against setting any Poor Man in the Stocks, or sending them to the House of Cor­rection for Immoralities, as the most unequal and unjust way of proceeding in the World.

And now, Gentlemen,

That this Protestation may not seem a little too rude, and a Breach of good Manners to our [Page 8] Superiors, we crave Leave to subjoin our hum­ble Appeal to your selves; and will for once, knowing you as English Gentlemen, to be Men of Honour, make you Iudges in your own case.

First, Gentlemen, We appeal to your selves, whether ever it be likely to perfect the Refor­mation of Manners in this Kingdom, without you: Whether Laws to punish us, without your Example also to influence us, will ever bring the Work to pass.

The first Step from a loose vicious Practice in this Nation, was begun by King Edward the Sixth, back'd by a Reform'd Clergy, and a So­ber Nobility: Queen Elizabeth carried it on. 'Twas the Kings and the Gentry which first again degenerated from that strict Observation of Moral Virtues, and from thence carried Vice on to that degree it now appears in. From the Court Vice took its Progress into the Countrey; and in the Families of the Gentry and Nobility it harbour'd, till it took heart under their Pro­tection, and made a general Sally into the Na­tion; and We the Poor Commons, who have been always easy to be guided by the Example of our Landlords and Gentlemen, have really been debauch'd into Vice by their Examples: And it must be the Example of you the Nobility and Gentry of the Kingdom, that must put a Stop to [Page 9] the Flood of Vice and Prophaneness which is broken in upon the Countrey, or it will never be done.

Our Laws against all manner of Vicious Pra­ctices are already very severe: But Laws are useless insignificant things, if the Executive Power which lies in the Magistrate be not ex­erted. The Justices of the Peace have the Power to punish, but if they do not put forth that Power, 'tis all one as if they had none at all: Some have possibly exerted this Power; but whereever it has been so put forth, it has fallen upon us the poor Commons: These are▪ all Cobweb Laws, in which the small Flies are catch'd, and the great ones break through. My Lord-Mayor has whipt about the poor Beggars, and a few scan­dalous Whores have been sent to the House of Correction; some Alehousekeepers and Vint­ners have been Fin'd for drawing Drink on the Sabbath-day; but all this falls upon us of the Mob, the poor Plebeii, as if all the Vice lay among us; for we do not find the Rich Drunkard carri'd before my Lord Mayor, nor a Swearing Lewd Merchant Fin'd, or Set in the Stocks. The man with a Gold Ring and Gay Cloths, may Swear be­fore the Justice, or at the Justice; may reel home through the open Streets, and no man take any no­tice [Page 10] of it; but if a poor man get drunk, or swear an Oath, he must to the Stocks without Remedy.

In the second place, We appeal to your selves, Whether Laws or Proclamations are capable of having any Effect towards a Reformation of Manners, while the very Benches of our Justi­ces are infected with the scandalous Vices of Swearing and Drunkenness; while our Justices themselves shall punish a man for Drunkenness, with a God damn him, set him in the Stocks: And if Laws and Proclamations are useless in the Case, then they are good for nothing, and had as good be let alone as publish'd.

'Tis hard, Gentlemen, to be punish'd for a Crime, by a man as guilty as our selves; and that the Figure a man makes in the World, must be the reason why he shall or shall not be liable to a Law: This is really punishing men for be­ing poor, which is no Crime at all; as a Thief may be said to be hang'd, not for the Fact, but for being taken.

We further Appeal to your selves, Gentle­men, to inform us, whether there be any particu­lar reason why you should be allow'd the full Career of your corrupt Appetites, without the Restraint of Laws, while you your selves agree that such Offences shall be punished in us, and do really execute the Law upon the Poor People, [Page 11] when brought before you for the same things.

Wherefore, That the Work of Reformation of Manners may go on, and be brought to Perfe­ction, to the Glory of God, and the great Ho­nour of the King and Parliament: That De­bauchery and Prophaneness, Drunkenness, Who­ring, and all sorts of Immoralities may be sup­press'd, we humbly propose the Method which may effectually accomplish so great a Work.

(1.) That the Gentry and Clergy, who are the Leaders of us poor ignorant people, and our Lights erected on high places to guide and go­vern us, would in the first place put a voluntary force upon themselves, and effectually reform their own Lives, their way of Conversing, and their common Behaviour among their Servants and Neighbours.

1. The Gentry. They are the Original of the Modes, and Customs, and Manners of their Neighbours; and their Examples in the Countries especially are very moving. There are three se­veral Vices, which have the principal Manage­ment of the greatest part of Mankind, viz. Drunkenness, Swearing, and Whoring; all of them very ill becoming a Gentlemen, however Custom may have made them Modish: Where none of these Three are in a House, there is cer­tainly something of a Plantation of God in the [Page 12] Family; for they are such Epidemick Distem­pers, that hardly Human Nature is entirely free from them.

1. Drunkenness, that brutish Vice; a Sin so sordid, and so much a Force upon Nature, that had God Almighty enjoyn'd it a Duty, I believe many a man would have ventur'd the loss of Heaven, rather than have perform'd it. The Pleasure of it seems to be so secretly hid, that wild Heathen Nations know nothing of the mat­ter; 'tis only discover'd by the wise people of these Northern Countries, who are grown Pro­ficients in Vice, Philosophers in Wickedness, who can extract a Pleasure to themselves in losing their Understanding, and make themselves sick at heart for their Diversion.

If the History of this well bred Vice was to be written, 'twould plainly appear that it begun among the Gentry, and from them was hand­ed down to the poorer sort, who still love to be like their Betters. After the Restitution of King Charles the Second, when drinking the King's Health became the distinction between a Cava­lier and a Roundhead, Drunkenness began its Reign, and it has Reign'd almost Forty Years: The Gentry caress'd this Beastly Vice at such a Rate, that no Companion, no Servant was thought proper, unless he could bear a Quantity of [Page 13] Wine; And to this day 'tis added to the Cha­racter of a Man, as an additional Title, when you would speak well of him, He is an honest drunken Fellow; as if his Drunkenness was a Re­commendation of his Honesty. From the pra­ctice of this nasty Faculty, our Gentlemen have arriv'd to the teaching of it; and that it might be effectually preservd to the next Age, have ve­ry early instructed the Youth in it. Nay, so far has Custom prevail'd, that the Top of a Gentleman's Entertainment has been to make his Friend drunk; and the Friend is so much re­concil'd to it, that he takes that for the effect of his Kindness, which he ought as much to be af­fronted at, as if he had kick'd him down Stairs: Thus 'tis become a Science; and but that the Instruction proves so easy, and the Youth too apt to learn, possibly we might have had a Col­ledge erected for it before now. The further perfection of this Vice among the Gentry, will appear in two things; that 'tis become the Sub­ject of their Glory, and the way of expressing their Joy for any publick Blessing. Iack, said a Gentleman of very high Quality, when after the Debate in the House of Lords, King William was voted into the vacant Throne; Iack, (says he) God damn ye Jack, go home to your Lady, and tell her we have got a Protestant King and Queen; and go [Page 14] and make a Bonfire as big as a House, and bid the Bntler make ye all drunk, ye Dog: Here was Sacri­ficing to the Devil, for a Thanksgiving to God. Other Vices are committed as Vices, and men act them in private, and are willing to hide them; but Drunkenness they are so fond of, that they will glory in it, boast of it, and endeavour to promote it as much as possible in others: 'Tis a Triumph to a Champion of the Bottle, to re­peat how many Quarts of Wine he has drank at a sitting, and how he made such and such honest Fellows drunk. Men Lye and Forswear, and hide it▪ and are asham'd of it, as indeed they have reason to do: But Drunkenness and Who­ring are Accomplishments People value them­selves upon, repeat them with pleasure, and affect a sort of Vanity in the History; are content all the World should be Witnesses of their Intem­perance, have made the Crime a Badge of Ho­nour to their Breeding▪ and introduce the practice as a Fashion. And whoever gives himself the trouble to reflect on the Custom of our Gentle­men in their Families, encouraging and promo­ting this Vice of Drunkenness among the poor Commons, will not think it a Scandal upon the Gentry of England, if we say, That the Mode of drinking, as 'tis now practised, had its Original from the Practice of the Country Gentlemen, and they again from the Court.

[Page 15] It may be objected, and God forbid it should not, That there are a great many of our Nobi­lity and Gentlemen, who are Men of Honour and Men of Morals; and therefore this Charge is not universal. To which we answer, 'Tis universal for all that, because those very Gentle­men, though they are negatively clear as to the Commission of the Crimes we speak of, yet are positively guilty, in not executing that Power the Law has put into their hands, with an Im­partial Vigor. For where was that Gentleman or Justice of the Peace ever yet found, who executed the Terms of the Law upon a Drunken, Swear­ing, Lewd Gentleman, his Neighbour, but the Quality of the Person has been a License to the open Exercise of the worst Crimes; as if there were any Baronets, Knights, or Squires in the next World; who because of those little step▪ Custom had raised them on, higher than their Neighbours, should be exempted from the Di­vine Judicature; or that as Captain Vrats said, who was Hang'd for Murth'ring Esquire [...]hynn, God would show them some respect as they were Gentle­men.

If there were any reason why a Rich Man should be permitted in the publick Exercise of Open Immoralities, and not the Poor Man, something might be said: But if there be any dif­ference [Page 16] it lies the other way; for the Vices of a Poor Man affect only himself; but the Rich Man's Wickedness affects all the Neighbourhood, gives offence to the Sober, encourages and har­dens the Lewd, and quite overthrows the weak Resolutions of such as are but indifferently fix'd in their Virtue and Morality. If my own Watch goes false, it deceives me and none else; but if the Town Clock goes false, it deceives the whole Parish. The Gentry are the Leaders of the Mob; if they are Lewd and Drunken, the others strive to imi­tate them; if they Discourage Vice and Intem­perance, the other will not be so forward in it, nor so fond of it.

To think then to effect a Reformation by Punishing the Poor, while the Rich seem to Enjoy a Charter for wickedness, is like taking away the Effect, that the Cause may cease.

We find some People very fond of Monopo­lizing a Vice, they would have all of it to themselves; they must, as my Lord Rochester said of himself, Sin like a Lord; little sneaking Sins won't serve turn; but they must be Lewd at a rate above the Common Size, to let the World see they are capable of it.

Our Laws seem to take no Cognizance of such, perhaps for the same reason that Lycurgus made no Law against Parricide, because he would [Page 17] not have the Sin named among his Citizens.

Now the Poor Man sees no such Dignity in Vice, as to study Degrees; we are downright in Wickedness, as we are in our Dealings; if we are Drunk, 'tis plain Drunkenness; Swear­ing, and Whoring, is all Blunderbus with us; we don't affect such Niceties in our Conversation; and the Justices use us accordingly; nothing but the Stocks, or the House of Correction is the Case, when we are brought before them; but when our Masters the Gentlemen come to their Refin'd Practice, and Sin by the Rules of Quality, we find nothing comes of it but false Heraldry, the Vice is punish'd by the Vice, and the Punishment renews the Crime.

The Case in short is this; the Lewdness, Prophaneness, and Immorality of the Gentry, which is the main Cause of the General De­bauchery of the Kingdom, is not at all toucht by our Laws, as they are now Executed; and while it remains so, the Reformation of Manners can never be brought to pass, nor Prophaneness and Immorality Suppress'd; and therefore the Pu­nishing the Poor distinctly is a Mock upon the good Designs of the King and Parliament; an Act of Injustice upon them to punish them, and let others who are as guilty go free; and a sort of Cruelty too, in taking the advantage [Page 18] of their Poverty to make them suffer, because they want Estates to purchase their Exemption.

We have some weak Excuses for this Matter, which must be considered: As,

(1). The Justice of the Peace is a Passive Magistrate, till an information be brought be­fore him, and is not to take notice of any thing, but as it is laid in Fact, and brought to an Affi­davit. Now if an Affidavit be made before a Justice, that such or such a man Swore, or was Drunk, he must, he cannot avoid Fining him; the Law obliges him to it, let his Quality be what it will; so that the Defect is not in the Law, not in the Justice, but in the want of Information.

(2). The Name of an Evidence or Informer is so scandalous, that to attempt to inform against a man for the most open Breach of the Laws of Morality, is enough to denominate a man un­fit for Society; a Rogue and an Informer are Synonimous in the Vulgar Acceptation▪ so much is the real Detection of the openest Crimes against God, and Civil Government, Discouraged and Avoided.

(3). The Impossibility of the Cure is such, and the Habit has so obtain'd upon all Mankind, that it seems twisted with Human Nature, as an Ap­pendix to Natural Frailty, which it is impossible to separate from it▪

[Page 19] For Answer;

1. ▪Tis true, the Justice of the Peace is in some respect a Passive Magistrate, and does not act but by Information, but such Information would be brought if it were encouraged; if Justices of the Peace did acquaint themselves with their Neighbourhood, they would soon hear of the Immoralities of the Parish; and if they did im­partially Execute the Law on such as offended, without respect of Person, they would soon have an Account of the Persons and Circumstances. Besides, 'tis not want of Information, but want of punishing what they have information of▪ A Poor Man informs against a Great Man, the Witness is discouraged, the man goes unpunish'd, and the Poor Man gets the scandal of an Infor­mer; and then 'tis but too often that our Ju­stices are not men of extraordinary Morals them­selves; and who shall Inform a Justice of the Peace that such a man Swore, when he may be heard to Swear himself as fast as another? or who shall bring a man before a Justice for being Drunk, when the Justice is so Drunk himself, he cannot order him to be set in the Stocks?

(2.) Besides, the Justice has a power to pu­nish any Fact he himself sees committed, and to enquire into any he hears of casually; and if he will stand still and see those Acts of Immora­lity [Page 20] committed before his Face, who shall bring a Poor Man before him to be punished? Thus I have heard a Thousand horrid Oaths sworn on a Bowling Green, in the presence of a Justice of the Peace, and he take no notice of it, and go home the next hour, and set a man in the Stocks for being Drunk.

As to the Scandal of Informing, 'tis an Error in Custom, and a great Sin against Justice; 'tis necessary indeed that all Judgment should be according to Evidence, and to discourage Evi­dence, is to discourage Justice; but that a man in Trial of the Morality of his Neighbour, should be ashamed to appear, must have some parti­cular Cause.

(1.) It proceeds from the Modishness of the Vice; it has so obtain'd upon mens Practices, that to appear against what almost all men ap­prove, seems malicious, and has a certain pro­spect either of Revenge, or of a Mercenary Wretch, that Informs meerly to get a Reward. 'Tis true, if no Reward be plac'd upon an In­formation, no man will take the trouble; and again, if too great a Reward, Men of Honour shun the thing, because they scorn the Fee; and to Inform meerly for the Fee, has something of a Rascal in it too; and from these Reasons arises the backwardness of the People.

[Page 21] The very same Rich men we speak of are the persons who discourage the Discovery of Vice, by scandalizing the Informer; a man that is any thing of a Gentleman scorns it, and the Poor still Mimick the Humour of the Rich, and hate an Informer as they do the Devil. 'Tis strange the Gentlemen should be asham'd to detect the Breach of those Laws, which they were not asham'd to make; but the very Name of an Informer has gain'd so black an Idea in the minds of People, because some who have made a Trade of Informing against People for Religion, have misbehaved themselves, that truly 'twill be hard to bring any man either of Credit or Quality to attempt it.

But the main thing which makes our Gentle­men backward in the prosecution of Vice, is their practising the same Crimes themselves, and they have so much wicked Modesty and Generosity in them, being really no Enemies to the thing it self, that they cannot with any sort of freedom punish in others, what they practise themselves.

In the Times of Executing the Laws against Dissenters, we found a great many Gentlemen very Vigorous in prosecuting their Neighbours; they did not stick to appear in Person to disturb Meetings, and demolish the Meeting Houses, and rather than fail, would be Informers them­selves; [Page 22] the reason was because they had also a dislike to the think; but we never found a Dis­senting Gentleman, or Justice of the Peace for­ward to do thus, because they approved of it. Now were our Gentlemen and Magistrates real Enemies to the Immoralities of this Age, did they really hate Drunkenness as a Vice, they would be forward and zealous to root the pra­ctice of it out of the Neighbourhood, they would not be backward or asham'd to detect Vice, to disturb Drunken Assemblies, to disperse those Plantations of Leachery, the Publick Bawdy-Houses, which are almost as openly allowed as the Burdelloes in Italy▪ They would be willing to have all sorts of Vices Suppress'd, and glory in putting their hands to the Work; they would not be asham'd to appear in the detecting Debau­chery, nor afraid to embroil themselves with their Rich Neighbours. 'Tis Guilt of the same Fact which makes Connivance, and till that Guilt be removed, the Gentlemen of England neither will, not can indeed with any kind of Honour put their hands to the work of Reform­ing it in their Neighbours.

But I think 'tis easy to make it appear that this difficulty of Informing may be removed, and there need not be much occasion for that Scan­dalous Employment.

[Page 23] 'Tis in the power of the Gentry of England to Reform the whole Kingdom without either Laws, Proclamations, or Informers; and with­out their Concurrence, all the Laws, Procla­mations, and Declarations in the World will have no Effect; the Vigour of the Laws con­sists in their Executive Power; Ten thousand Acts of Parliament signify no more than One single Proclamation, unless the Gentlemen, in whose hands the Execution of those Laws is placed, take care to see them duly made use of; and how can Laws be duly Executed, but by an Impartial Distribution of equal Re­wards and Punishments, without regard to the Quality and Degree of the Persons? The Laws push on the Justices now, and they take care to go no faster than they are driven; but would the Justices push on the Laws, Vice would flee before them as Dust in the Wind, and Immoralities would be soon Suppress'd; but it can never be expected that the Magi­strates should push on the Laws to a free Sup­pression of Immoralities, till they Reform them­selves, and their Great Neighbours Reform them­selves, that there may be none to punish who are too big for the Magistrate to venture upon.

Would the Gentry of England decry the Mo­dishness of Vice by their own Practice; would [Page 24] they dash it out of Countenance by disowning it; that Drunkeness and Oaths might once come into disesteem, and be out of Fashion, and a man be valued the less for them; that he that will Swear, and be Drunk, shall be counted a Rake, and not fit for a Gentleman's Company. This would do more to Reforming the rest of Man­kind, than all the Punishments the Law can in­flict; the Evil encreased by Example, and must be suppress'd the same way. If the Gentry were thus Reform'd, their Families would be so too: No Servant would be Entertain'd, no Workman Employ'd, no Shopkeeper would be Traded with by a Gentleman, but such as like themselves, were Sober and Honest; a Lewd, Vicious, Drunken Footman must Reform or Starve, he would get no Service; a Servant once turn'd a­way for his Intemperance, would be entertain'd by no body else; a Swearing Debauch'd Labourer or Workman must Reform, or no body would Employ him; the Drunken whoring Shopkeeper must grow Sober, or lose all his Customers and be Undone. Interest and good Manners would Re­form us of the poorer sort, there would be no need of the Stocks or Houses of Correction; we should be sober of course, because we should be all Beg­gars else; and he that lov'd his Vice so dearly as to purchase it with the loss of his Trade or Em­ployment, [Page 25] would soon grow too poor for his Vice, and be forced to leave it by his own Necessities; there would be no need of Informers, a Vicious Fellow would be presently Notorious, he would be the Talk of the Town, every one would slight and shun him for fear of being thought like him by being seen in his Company; he would expose himself, and would be punish'd as unpitied as a Thief.

So that in short, the whole Weight of this Blessed Work of Reformation lies on the shoul­ders of the Gentry; they are the Cause of our Defection, which being taken away, the Effect would cease of course, Vice would grow Scan­dalous, and all Mankind would be asham'd of it.

(2.) The Clergy also ought not to count themselves exempted in this matter, whose Lives have been, and in some places still are so Vici­ous and so loose, that 'tis well for England we are not subject to be much Priest-ridden.

'Tis a strange thing how it shou'd be other­wise than it is with us the poor Commonalty, when the Gentry our Patern, and the Clergy our Teachers, are as Immoral as we. And then to consider the Coherence of the thing; the Parson preaches a thundering Sermon against Drunken­ness, and the Iustice of Peace sets my poor Neighbour in the Stocks, and I am like to be much the better for [Page 26] either, when I know perhaps that this same Parson and this same Iustice were both Drunk together but the Night before.

It may be true, for ought we know, that a Wicked Parson may make a good Sermon; and the Spanish Proverb, may be true of the Soul as well as the Body, If the Cure be but wrought let the Devil be the Doctor; but this does not take with the downright ignorant People in the Country; a poor Man gets Drunk in a Country Ale house, Why, are you not asham'd to be such a Beast, says a good honest Neighbour to him the next day? Asham'd, says the Fellow! Why should I be asham'd? Why, there was Sir Iohn—and Sir Robert— and the Parson, and they were all as Drunk as I. And why a Beast, Pray? I heard Sir Robert —say, That

He that Drinks least,
Drinks most like a Beast.

A Vicious Parson that preaches well, but lives ill, may be like an unskilful Horseman, who opens a Gate on the wrong side, and lets other Folks through, but shuts himself out. This may be possible, but it seems most reasonable to think they are a means by that sort of living to hinder both themselves and others; and would the Gentry and Clergy of England but look back a little on the Guilt that really lies [Page 27] on them, as Gentlemen by whose Example so great a part of Mankind has been led into, and encouraged in the Progress of Vice, they would find Matter of very serious reflection.

This Article of the Clergy may seem to lie in the power of their Superiors to rectify, and therefore may be something more feasible than the other; but the Gentry who are Sui juris, can no way be reduced but by their own vo­luntary practice. We are in England exceeding­ly govern'd by Modes and Customs. The Gentry may effectually Suppress Vice, would they but put it out of Fashion; but to Suppress it by Force seems impossible.

The Application of this rough Doctrine is in short both to the Gentry and Clergy, Physicians Heal your selves; if you will leave off your Drunkenness and Lewdness first, if we do not follow you, then set us in the Stocks, and send us to the House of Correction, and punish us as you please; if you will leave off Whoring first, then Brand us in the Foreheads, or Trans­port or Hang us for Fornication or Adultery, and you are welcome; but to preach against Drunkenness immediately after an Evening's Debauch; to Correct a poor Fellow for Swear­ing with the very Vice in your Mouths; these are the unjustest ways in the World, and have [Page 28] in themselves no manner of tendency towards the Reformation of Manners, which is the true Design of the Law.

'Tis acknowledge'd there are in England a great many Sober, Pious, Religious Persons, both among the Gentry and Clergy, and 'tis hoped such cannot think themselves Libell'd or In­jur'd in this Plea; if there were not, Laws would never have been made against those Vi­ces, for no men make Laws to punish themselves; 'tis design'd to reflect upon none but such as are Guilty, and on them no farther than to put them in mind how much the Nation owes its present Degeneracy to their folly, and how much it is in their power to Reform it again by their Ex­ample; that the King may not publish Pro­clamations, nor the Parliament make Laws to no purpose; but that we might live in England once more like Christians, and like Gentlemen, to the Glory of God, and the Honour of the present King and Parliament, who so publickly have attempted the great Work of Reformati­on among us, though hitherto to so little pur­pose.


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