Front Page Titles (by Subject) Freeholder, No. 29 - Cato: A Tragedy and Selected Essays
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Freeholder, No. 29 - Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy and Selected Essays 
Cato: A Tragedy and Selected Essays, ed. by Christine Dunn Henderson and Mark E. Yellin, with a Foreword by Forrest McDonald (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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Freeholder, No. 29
Friday, March 30, 1716
This being a day2 in which the thoughts of our countrymen are, or ought to be, employed on serious subjects, I shall take the opportunity of that disposition of mind in my Readers, to recommend to them the practice of those religious and moral virtues, without which all policy is vain, and the best cause deprived of its greatest ornament and support.
Common sense, as well as the experience of all ages, teaches us, that no government can flourish which doth not encourage and propagate religion and morality among all its particular members. It was an observation of the ancient Romans, that their empire had not more increased by the strength of their arms, than by the sanctity of their manners: and Cicero, who seems to have been better versed than any of them, both in the theory and the practice of politicks, makes it a doubt, whether it were possible for a community to exist that had not a prevailing mixture of piety in its constitution.3 Justice, temperance, humility, and almost every other moral virtue, do not only derive the blessings of Providence upon those who exercise them, but are the natural means for acquiring the publick prosperity. Besides; religious motives and instincts are so busy in the heart of every reasonable creature, that a man who would hope to govern a society without any regard to these principles, is as much to be contemned for his folly, as to be detested for his impiety.
To this we may add, that the world is never sunk into such a state of degeneracy, but they pay a natural veneration to men of virtue; and rejoice to see themselves conducted by those, who act under the awe of a supreme Being, and who think themselves accountable for all their proceedings to the great judge and superintendent of human affairs.
Those of our fellow-subjects, who are sensible of the happiness they enjoy in his Majesty’s accession to the throne, are obliged, by all the duties of gratitude, to adore that providence which has so signally interposed in our behalf, by clearing a way to the Protestant succession through such difficulties as seemed insuperable; by detecting the conspiracies which have been formed against it; and, by many wonderful events, weakening the hands and baffling the attempts of all his Majesty’s enemies both foreign and domestick.
The party who distinguish themselves by their zeal for the present Establishment, should be careful, in a particular manner, to discover in their whole conduct such a reverence for religion, as may shew how groundless that reproach is which is cast upon them by their enemies, of being averse to our national worship. While others engross to themselves the name of The Church, and, in a manner, excommunicate the best part of their fellow-subjects; let us shew our selves the genuine sons of it, by practising the doctrines which it teaches. The advantage will be visibly on our side, if we stick to its essentials; while they triumph in that empty denomination which they bestow upon themselves. Too many of them are already dipt in the guilt of perjury and sedition; and as we remain unblemished in these particulars, let us endeavour to excel them in all the other parts of Religion, and we shall quickly find, that a regular morality is, in its own nature, more popular, as well as more meritorious, than an intemperate zeal.
We have likewise, in the present times of confusion and disorder, an opportunity of shewing our abhorrence of several principles which have been ascribed to us by the malice of our enemies. A disaffection to Kings and Kingly government, with a proneness to rebellion, have been often very unjustly charged on that party which goes by the name of Whigs. Our steady and continued adherence to his Majesty and the present happy settlement, will the most effectually confute this calumny. Our adversaries, who know very well how odious common-wealth principles4 are to the English nation, have inverted the very sense of words and things, rather than not continue to brand us with this imaginary guilt: For with some of these men, at present, loyalty to our King is Republicanism, and rebellion Passive-obedience.
It has been an old objection to the principles of the Whigs, that several of their leaders, who have been zealous for redressing the grievances of Government, have not behaved themselves better than the Tories in domestick scenes of life: but at the same time have been publick Patriots and private oppressors. This objection, were it true, has no weight in it, since the misbehaviour of particular persons does not at all affect their cause, and since a man may act laudably in some respects, who does not so in others. However it were to be wished, that men would not give occasion even to such invectives; but at the same time they consult the happiness of the whole, that they would promote it to their utmost in all their private dealings among those who lie more immediately within their influence. In the mean while I must observe, that this reproach, which may be often met with in print and conversation, tends in reality to the honour of the Whigs, as it supposes that a greater regard to justice and humanity is to be expected from them, than from those of the opposite party: And it is certain we cannot better recommend our principles, than by such actions as are their natural and genuine fruits.
Were we thus careful to guard our selves in a particular manner against these groundless imputations of our enemies, and to rise above them as much in our morality as in our politicks, our cause would be always as flourishing as it is just. It is certain, that our notions have a more natural tendency to such a practice, as we espouse the Protestant Interest in opposition to that of Popery, which is so far from advancing morality by its doctrines, that it has weakned, or entirely subverted, many of the duties even of natural religion.5
I shall conclude, with recommending one virtue more to the friends of the present establishment, wherein the Whigs have been remarkably deficient; which is a general unanimity and concurrence in the pursuit of such measures as are necessary for the well-being of their country. As it is a laudable freedom of thought which unshackles their minds from the poor and narrow prejudices of education, and opens their eyes to a more extensive view of the publick good; the same freedom of thought disposes several of them to the embracing of particular schemes and maxims, and to a certain singularity of opinion which proves highly prejudicial to their cause; especially when they are encouraged in them by a vain breath of popularity, or by the artificial praises which are bestowed on them by the opposite party. This temper of mind, though the effect of a noble principle, very often betrays their friends, and brings into power the most pernicious and implacable of their enemies. In cases of this nature, it is the duty of an honest and prudent man, to sacrifice a doubtful opinion to the concurring judgment of those whom he believes to be well intentioned to their country, and who have better opportunities of looking into all its most complicated interests. An honest party of men acting with unanimity, are of infinitely greater consequence than the same party aiming at the same end by different views: As a large diamond is of a thousand times greater value whilst it remains entire, than when it is cut into a multitude of smaller stones, notwithstanding they may each of them be very curiously set, and are all of the same water.
[1. ]“Tis by holding thyself the servant of the gods that thou dost rule; with them all things begin; to them ascribe the outcome! Outraged, they have visited unnumbered woes on sorrowing Hesperia.” Horace Odes III.vi.5–8.
[2. ]Good Friday.
[3. ]Cicero De Natura Deorum I.i.3–4.
[4. ]In their most radical form, commonwealth principles included the abolition of the monarchy and were associated with frequent rebellions. By contrast, Whigs advocated the idea of contractual government between the people and the sovereign, limited monarchy, right to revolution, protection of civil liberties, and religious freedom.
[5. ]See Cato, V.i (p. 88, note 2).