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1776. In this way we should be certain of there being always
a nuinber of established roots; and as in the course Ætat. 67.
of nature, there is in every age an extinction of some
I mentioned Dr. Adam Smith's book on “ The
9 The privilege of perpetuating in a family an estate and arms indcfeasibly from generation to generation, is enjoyed by none of his Majesty's subjects except in Scotland, where the legal fiction of fine and recocery is unknown. It is a privilege so proud, that I should think it would be proper to have the exercise of it depende ent on the royal prerogative. It seems absurd to permit the power of perpetuating their representation, to men, who having had no eminent have truly no name. The King, as the impartial father of his people, would never refuse to grant the privilege to those who deserved it,
It is not necessary to have practised, to write well 1776. upon a subject.” I mentioned law as a subject on Ætat. 67 which no man could write well without practice. Johnson. " Why, Sir, in England, where so much money
is to be got by the practice of the law, most of our writers
it have been in practice; though Blackstone had not been much in practice when he published his · Commentaries.' But upon the Continent, the great writers on law have not all been in practice: Grotius, indeed was; but Puffendorf was not, Burlamaqui was not.”
When we had talked of the great consequence which a man acquired by being employed in his profession, I suggested a doubt of the justice of the general opinion, that it is improper in a lawyer to solicit employment; for why, I urged, should it not be equally allowable to solicit that as the means of consequence, as it is to solicit votes to be elected a meniber of Parliament? Mr. Strahan had told me that a countryman of his and mine, who had risen to eminence in the law, had, when first making his way, solicited him to get him employed in city causes. Johnson. “ Sir, it is wrong to stir up law-suits ; but when once it is certain that a law-suit is to go on, there is nothing wrong in a lawyer's endeavouring that he shall have the benefit, rather than another." Boswell.“ You would not solicit employment, Sir; if you were a lawyer.” Johnson. “ No, Sir; but not because I should think it wrong, but because I should disdain it.” This was a good distinction, which will be felt by men of just pride. He ceeded: “ However, I would not have a lawyer to be wanting to himself in using fair means. I would
1776. have him to inject a little hint now and then, to pres
vent his being overlooked.” Ætat. 67.
Lord Mountstuart's bill for a Scotch Militia, in supporting which his Lordship had made an able speech in the House of Commons, was now a pretty general topick of conversation.-Johnson. " As Scotland contributes so little land-tax towards the general support of the nation, it ought not to have a militia paid out of the general fund, unless it should be thought for the general interest, that Scotland should be protected from an invasion, which no man can think will happen ; for what enemy would invade Scotland, where there is nothing to be got? No, Sir; now that the Scotch have not the
of English soldiers spent among them, as so many troops are sent abroad, they are trying to get money another way, by having a militia paid. If they are afraid, and seriously desire to have an armed force to defend them, they should pay for it. Your scheme is to retain a part of your land tax, by making us pay and clothe
militia.” Boswell. "You should not talk of we and you, Sir: there is now an Union." Johnson. “ There must be a distinction of interest, while the proportions of land-tax are so unequal. If Yorkshire should say, “Instead of paying our landtax, we will keep a greater number of militia,' it would be unreasonable.” In this argument my friend was certainly in the wrong. The land-tax is as unequally proportioned between different parts of England, as between England and Scotland; nay, it is considerably unequal in Scotland itself. But the land-tax is but a small part of the numerous branches of publick revenue, all of which Scotland pays pre
cisely as England does. A French invasion made in 1776. Scotland would soon penetrate into England.
Ætat. 67 He thus discoursed upon supposed obligation in settling estates :" Where a man gets the unlimited property of an estate, there is no obligation upon him in jæstice to leave it to one person rather than to another. There is a motive of preference from kindness, and this kindness is generally entertained for the nearest relation. If I owe a particular man a sum of money, I am obliged to let that man have the next money I get, and cannot in justice let another have it: but if I owe money to no man, I may dispose of what I get as I please. There is not a debilum justitiæ to a man's next heir ; there is only a debirum caritalis. It is plain, then, that I have morally a choice, according to my liking. If I have a brother in want, he has a claim from affection to my assistance; but if I have also a brother in want, whom I like better, he has a preferable claim. The right of an lieir át law is only this, that he is to have the succession to an estate, in case no other person is åppointed to it by the owner. His right is merely preferable to that of the King." • We got into a boat to cross over to Black-friars ; and as we moved along the Thames, I talked to hin of a little volume, which, altogether unknown to him, was advertised to be published in a few days, ander the title of “Johnsoniana, or Bon-Mots of Dr. Johnson.” JOHNSON. “Sir, it is a mighty impudent thing.” BOSWELL. “ Pray, Sir, could you have no redress if you were to prosecute a publisher for bringing out, under your name, what you never said, and ascribing to you dull stupid nonsense, or making you swear profanely, as many ignorant rela
1776. ters of your bon-mots do ?” JOHNSON. “No, Sir; there Ætat. 67.
will always be some truth mixed with the falsehood, and how can it be ascertained how much is true and how much is false ? Besides, Sir, whatdamages would a jurygive me for having been represented as swearing?" Boswell. “I think, Sir, you should at least disavow such a publication, because the world and posterity might with much plausible foundation say, · Here is a volume which was publickly advertised and came out in Dr. Johnson's own time, and, by his silence, was admitted by him to be genuine.” JOHNSON. “ I shall give myself no trouble about the matter."
He was, perhaps, above suffering from such spurious publications; but I could not help thinking, that many men would be much' injured in their reputation, by having absurd and vicious sayings imputed to them; and that redress ought in such cases to be given.
He said, “The value of every story depends on its being true. A story is a picture either of an indiTidual or of human nature in general : if it be false, it is a picture of nothing. For instance : suppose a man should tell that Johnson, before setting out for Italy, as he had to cross the Alps, sat down to make himself wings. This many people would believe ; but it would be a picture of nothing.. ******* (naming a worthy friend of ours,) used to think a story, a story, till I shewed him that truth was essenţial to it.” I observed, that Foote entertained as with stories which were not true ; but that, indeed, it was properly not as narratives that Foote's stories pleased us, but as collections of ludicrous images. JOHNSON." Foote is quite impartial, for he tells lies af every body.”