It is a grievous mistake in a great minister to neglect or despise, much more to irritate men of genius and learning. I have heard one of the wisest persons in my time observe, that an administration was to be known and judged by the talents of those who appeared their advocates in print. This I must never allow to be a general rule; yet I cannot but think it prodigiously unfortunate, that, among the answerers, defenders, repliers, and panegyrists, started up in defence of present persons and proceedings, there hath not yet arisen one whose labours we can read with patience, however we may applaud their loyalty and good will. And all this with the advantages of constant ready pay, of natural and acquired venom, and a grant of the whole fund of slander, to range over and riot in as they please.
On the other side, a turbulent writer of Occasional Letters, and other vexatious papers, in conjunction perhaps with one or two friends as bad as himself, is able to disconcert, tease, and sour us whenever he thinks fit, merely by the strength of genius and truth; and after so dexterous a manner, that, when we are vexed to the soul, and well know the reasons why we are so, we are ashamed to own the first, and cannot tell how to express the other. In a word, it seems to me that all the writers are on one side, and all the railers on the other.
However, I do not pretend to assert, that it is impossible for an ill minister to find men of wit who may be drawn, by a very valuable consideration, to undertake his defence; but the misfortune is, that the heads of such writers rebel against their hearts; their genius forsakes them, when they would offer to prostitute it to the service of injustice, corruption, party rage, and false representations of things and persons.
And this is the best argument I can offer in defence of great men, who have been of late so very unhappy in the choice of their paper-champions; although I cannot much commend their good husbandry, in those exorbitant payments of twenty and sixty guineas at a time for a scurvy pamphlet; since the sort of work they require is what will all come within the talents of any one who hath enjoyed the happiness of a very bad education, hath kept the vilest company, is endowed with a servile spirit, is master of an empty purse, and a heart full of malice.
But, to speak the truth in soberness; it should seem a little hard, since the old Whiggish principle hath been recalled of standing up for the liberty of the press, to a degree that no man, for several years past, durst venture out a thought which did not square to a point with the maxims and practices that then prevailed: I say, it is a little hard that the vilest mercenaries should be countenanced, preferred, rewarded, for discharging their brutalities against men of honour, only upon a bare conjecture.
If it should happen that these profligates have attacked an innocent person, I ask what satisfaction can their hirers give in return? Not all the wealth raked together by the most corrupt rapacious ministers, in the longest course of unlimited power, would be sufficient to atone for the hundredth part of such an injury.