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SKETCH VII: Rise and Fall of Patriotism - Henry Home, Lord Kames, Sketches of the History of Man, vol. 2 
Sketches of the History of Man Considerably enlarged by the last additions and corrections of the author, edited and with an Introduction by James A. Harris (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). 3 Vols. Vol. 2.
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Rise and Fall of Patriotism
The members of a tribe in their original state of hunting and fishing, being little united but by a common language, have no notion of a patria; and scarce any notion of society, unless when they join in an expedition against an enemy, or against wild beasts. The shepherd-state, where flocks and herds are possessed in common, gives a clear notion of a common interest; but still none of a patria. The sense of a patria begins to unfold itself, when a people leave off wandering, to settle upon a territory that they call their own. Agriculture connects them together; and government still more: they become fellow-citizens; and the territory is termed the patria of every person born in it. It is so ordered by Providence, that a man’s country and his countrymen, are to him in conjunction an object of a peculiar affection, termed amor patriae, or patriotism; an affection that rises high among a people intimately connected by regular government, by husbandry, by commerce, and by a common interest. “Cari sunt parentes, cari liberi, propinqui, familiares; sed omnes omnium caritates patria una complexa est: pro qua quis bonus dubitet mortem oppetere?”*
In a man of a solitary disposition who avoids society, patriotism cannot abound. He may possibly have no hatred to his countrymen; but, were he desirous to see them happy, he would live among them, and put himself in the way of doing good.
The affection a man has for the place where he was bred, ought to be distinguished from patriotism, being a passion far inferior, and chiefly visible in the low people. A rustic has few ideas but of external sense: his hut, his wife, his children, the hills, trees, and rivulets around him, compose the train of his ideas. Remove him from these objects, and he finds a dismal vacuity in his mind. History, poetry, and other subjects of literature, have no relation to time nor place. Horace is relished in a foreign country as at home: the pleasures of conversation depend on persons, not on place.1
Social passions and affections, beside being much more agreeable than selfish, are those only which command our esteem (a) . Patriotism stands at the head of social affections; and stands so high in our esteem, that no actions but what proceed from it are termed grand or heroic. When that affection appears so agreeable in contemplation, how glowing, how elevating, must it be in those whom it inspires! Like vigorous health, it beats constantly with an equal pulse: like the vestal fire, it never is extinguished. No source of enjoyment is more plentiful than patriotism, where it is the ruling passion: it triumphs over every selfish motive, and is a firm support to every virtue. In fact, where-ever it prevails, the morals of the people are found to be pure and correct.*
These are illustrious effects of patriotism with respect to private happiness and virtue; and yet its effects with respect to the public are still more illustrious. A nation in no other period of its progress is so flourishing, as when patriotism is the ruling passion of every member: during that period, it is invincible. Atheneus remarks, that the Athenians were the only people in the world, who, though clothed in purple, put formidable armies to flight at Marathon, Salamine, and Platea. But at that period patriotism was their ruling passion; and success attended them in every undertaking. Where patriotism rules, men perform wonders, whatever garb they wear. The fall of Saguntum is a grand scene; a people exerting the utmost powers of nature, in defence of their country. The city was indeed destroyed; but the citizens were not subdued. The last effort of the remaining heroes was, to burn themselves with their wives and children in one great funeral pile. Numantia affords a scene no less grand. The citizens, such as were able to bear arms, did not exceed 8000; and yet braved all the efforts of 60,000 disciplined soldiers, commanded by Scipio Nasica. So high was their character for intrepidity, that even when but a few of them were left alive, the Romans durst not attempt to storm the town. And they stood firm, till subdued by famine they were no longer able to crawl. While the Portuguese were eminent for patriotism, Lopez Carasco, one of their sea-captains, in a single ship with but forty men, fell in among the King of Achin’s fleet of twenty gallies, as many junks, and a multitude of small vessels. Resolute to perish rather than yield, he maintained the fight for three days, till his ship was pierced through and through with cannon-shot, and not a single man left unwounded. And yet, after all, the King’s fleet found it convenient to sheer off.
Patriotism at the same time is the great bulwark of civil liberty; equally abhorrent of despotism on the one hand, and of licentiousness on the other. While the despotic government of the Tudor family subsisted, the English were too much depressed to have any affection for their country. But when manufactures and commerce began to flourish in the latter end of Elisabeth’s reign, a national spirit broke forth, and patriotism made some figure. That change of disposition was perhaps the chief cause, though not the most visible, of the national struggles for liberty, which were frequent during the government of the Stewart family, and which ended in a free government at the Revolution.
Patriotism is too much cramped in a very small state, and too much relaxed in an extensive monarchy. But that topic has already been discussed in the first sketch of this book.
Patriotism is enflamed by a struggle for liberty, by a civil war, by resisting a potent invader, or by any incident that forcibly draws the members of a state into strict union for the common interest. The resolute opposition of the Dutch to Philip II. of Spain, in the cause of liberty, is an illustrious instance of the patriotic spirit rising to a degree of enthusiasm. Patriotism, roused among the Corsicans by the oppression of the Genoese, exerted itself upon every proper object. Even during the heat of the war, they erected an university for arts and sciences, a national bank, and a national library; improvements that would not have been thought of in their torpid state. Alas! they have fallen a victim to thirst of power, not to superior valour. Had Providence favoured them with success, their figure would have been considerable in peace as in war.*
But violent commotions cannot be perpetual: one party prevails, and prosperity follows. What effect may this have on patriotism? I answer, that nothing is more animating than success after a violent struggle: a nation in that state resembles a comet, which, in passing near the sun, has been much heated, and continues full of motion. Patriotism made a capital figure among the Athenians, when they became a free people, after expelling the tyrant Pisistratus. Every man exerted himself for his country: every man endeavoured to excell those who went before him: and hence a Miltiades, an Aristides, a Themistocles, names that for ever will figure in the annals of time. While the Roman republic was confined within nar-row bounds, austerity of manners, and disinterested love to their country, formed the national character. The elevation of the Patricians above the Plebeians, a source of endless discord, was at last remedied by placing all the citizens on a level. This signal revolution excited an animating emulation between the Patricians and Plebeians; the former, by heroic actions, labouring to maintain their superiority; the latter straining every nerve to equal them: the republic never at any other period produced so great men in the art of war.
It has been often remarked, that a nation is never so great as after a civil war. The good of the state is commonly the object; and patriotism is the ruling passion of both sides, though not always well directed. The good of the state was not the object in the civil wars of Rome; and instead of advancing patriotism, they annihilated the small portion that remained of it. Power and riches were the objects, which the grandees were violently bent to acquire per fas aut nefas, without the least regard to the public. Every joint of the commonwealth was relaxed, when the power-ful became greedy of more power; and it was shaken to pieces by continual struggles among the powerful. Patriotism vanished with the commonwealth: power and riches became the sole objects of pursuit; and with these every man tempted and was tempted: corruption of every sort spread wide, and venality above all. How depraved must the morals of Rome have been, when Cicero, esteemed its greatest patriot, requested Lucceius to write his history, and to set his conduct in the most advantageous light, without regard to truth. “I will venture,” says he, “to entreat you, not to confine yourself to the strict laws of history; but to give a latitude to your encomiums, greater possibly than you think my actions deserve. Let me hope you will not reject the generous partiality of friendship; but give somewhat more to affection than to rigorous truth” (a) . Yet this was the same Cicero who wrote an excellent book of morals. So little connection is there in some men between the heart and the head.2
The tyranny exercised by the Archdukes of Austria upon their subjects of Switzerland, united all the Cantons in a common cause for liberty and independence, and inspired every individual with an uncommon degree of patriotism. They succeeded, and became the most warlike nation in Europe. Every prince was fond to have numbers of them in his pay; and the barrenness of their soil induced them to hire out their troops for gain. Avarice crept in among them, and became the ruling passion. Guicchardin, who wrote his history of Italy the beginning of the sixteenth century, reports of that nation, that formerly famous for valour and military reputation, they had in his time lost all desire of glory and zeal for their country, and had become insatiably covetous, even so far as to raise the demand for hiring their troops to the utmost that could be procured. From the time of our author the reputation of their troops gradually declined; and at present there is not a nation in Europe but can cope with them.3
There is great intricacy in human actions: tho’ men are indebted to emulation for their heroic actions, yet such actions never fail to suppress emulation in those who follow. An observation is made above (a) , that a person of superior genius who damps emulation in others, is a fatal obstruction to the progress of an art: witness the celebrated Newton, to whom the decay of mathematical knowledge in Britain is justly attributed. The observation holds equally with respect to action. Those actions only that flow from patriotism are deemed grand and heroic; and such actions, above all others, rouse a national spirit. But beware of a Newton in heroism: instead of exciting emulation, he will damp it: despair to equal the great men who are the admiration of all men, puts an end to emulation. After the illustrious atchievements of Miltiades, and after the eminent patriotism of Aristides, we hear no more in Greece of emulation or of patriotism. Pericles was a man of parts, but he sacrificed Athens to his ambition. The Athenians sunk lower and lower under the Archons, who had neither parts nor patriotism; and were reduced at last to slavery, first by the Macedonians, and next by the Romans. The Romans run the same course, from the highest exertions of patriotic emulation, down to the most abject selfishness and effeminacy.
And this leads to other causes that extinguish patriotism, or relax it. Factious disorders in a state never fail to relax it; for there the citizen is lost, and every person is beheld in the narrow view of a friend or an enemy. In the contests between the Patricians and Plebeians of Rome, the public was totally disregarded: the Plebeians could have no heart-affection for a country where they were oppressed; and the Patricians might be fond of their own order, but they could not sincerely love their country, while they were enemies to the bulk of their countrymen. Patriotism did not shine forth in Rome, till all equally became citizens. Between the union of the two crowns of England and Scotland and that of the kingdoms, Scotland was greatly depressed: it was governed by a foreign king; the nobility, tyrants, and the low people, poor and dispirited. There was no patriotism among the former; and as little among the latter. Hence it appears, that the opposition in Scotland to the union of the two kingdoms, was absurdly impolitic. The opposition ought to have been against the union of the two crowns, in order to prevent the government of a foreign prince. After being reduced to dependence on another nation, the only remedy was to become one people by an union of the kingdoms.4
To support patriotism, it is necessary that a people be in a train of prosperity: when a nation becomes stationary, patriotism subsides. The ancient Romans upon a small foundation erected a great empire; so great indeed, that it fell to pieces by its unwieldiness. But the plurality of nations, whether from their situation, from the temper of their people, or from the nature of their government, are confined within narrower limits; beyond which their utmost exertions avail little, unless they happen to be extraordinary favourites of fortune. When a nation becomes thus stationary, its pushing genius is at an end: its plan is to preserve, not to acquire: the members, even without any example of heroism to damp emulation, are infected with the languid tone of the state: patriotism subsides; and we hear no more of bold or heroic actions. The Venetians are a pregnant instance of the observation. Their trade with Aleppo and Alexandria did for centuries introduce into Europe the commodities of Syria, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, and India. The cities of Nuremberg and Augsburg in particular, were supplied from Venice with these commodities; and by that traffick became populous and opulent. Venice, in a word, was for centuries the capital trading town of Europe, and powerful above all its neighbours, both at sea and land. A passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope was indeed an animating discovery to the Portuguese; but it did not entitle them to exclude the Venetians. The greater distance of Venice from the Cape, a trifle in itself, is more than balanced by its proximity to Greece, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and to the rest of Italy. But the Portuguese at that period were in the spring of prosperity; and patriotism envigorated them to make durable establishments on the Indian coast, overpowering every nation in opposition. The Venetians, on the contrary, being a nation of merchants, and having been long successful in commerce, were become stationary, and unqualified for bold adventures. Being cut out of their wonted commerce to India, and not having resolution to carry on commerce in a new channel, they sunk under the good fortune of their rivals, and abandoned the trade altogether. The Russians became a new people under Peter the Great, and are growing daily more and more powerful. The Turks, on the contrary, have been long in a declining state, and are at present a very degenerate people. Is it wonderful, that during the late war the Turks were no match for the Russians?5
No cause hitherto mentioned hath such influence in depressing patriotism, as inequality of rank and of riches in an opulent monarchy. A continual influx of wealth into the capital, generates show, luxury, avarice, which are all selfish vices; and selfishness, enslaving the mind, eradicates every fibre of patriotism.* Asiatic luxury, flowing into Rome in a plentiful stream, produced an universal corruption of manners, and metamorphosed into voluptuousness the warlike genius of that great city. The dominions of Rome were now too extensive for a republican government, and its generals too powerful to be disinterested. Passion for glory wore out of fashion, as austerity of manners had done formerly: power and riches were now the only objects of ambition: virtue seemed a farce; honour, a chimera; and fame, mere vanity: every Roman, abandoning himself to sensuality, flattered himself, that he, more wise than his forefathers, was pursuing the cunning road to happiness. Corruption and venality became general, and maintained their usurpation in the provinces as well as in the capital, without ever losing a foot of ground. Pyrrhus attempted by presents to corrupt the Roman senators, but made not the slightest impression. Deplorable was the change of manners in the days of Jugurtha:—“Pity it is,” said he, “that there should not be a man so opulent as to purchase a people so willing to be sold.” Cicero, mentioning an oracle of Apollo that Sparta would never be destroyed but by avarice, justly observes, that the prediction holds in every nation as well as in Sparta. The Greek empire, sunk in voluptuousness without a remaining spark of patriotism, was no match for the Turks, enflamed with a new religion, that promised paradise to those who should die fighting for their prophet. How many nations, like those mentioned, illustrious formerly for vigour of mind and love to their country, are now sunk by contemptible vices as much below brutes as they ought to be elevated above them: brutes seldom deviate from the perfection of their nature, men frequently.
Successful commerce is not more advantageous by the wealth and power it immediately bestows, than it is hurtful ultimately by introducing luxury and voluptuousness, which eradicate patriotism. In the capital of a great monarchy, the poison of opulence is sudden; because opulence there is seldom acquired by reputable means: the poison of commercial opulence is slow, because commerce seldom enriches without industry, sagacity, and fair dealing. But by whatever means acquired, opulence never fails soon or late to smother patriotism under sensuality and selfishness. We learn from Plutarch and other writers, that the Athenians, who had long enjoyed the sunshine of commerce, were extremely corrupt in the days of Philip, and of his son Alexander. Even their chief patriot and orator, a professed champion for independence, was not proof against bribes. While Alexander was prosecuting his conquests in India, Harpalus, to whom his immense treasure was intrusted, fled with the whole to Athens. Demosthenes advised his fellow-citizens to expell him, that they might not incur Alexander’s displeasure. Among other things of value, there was the King’s cup of massy gold, curiously engraved. Demosthenes, surveying it with a greedy eye, asked Harpalus what it weighed. To you, said Harpalus smiling, it shall weigh twenty talents; and that very night he sent privately to Demosthenes twenty talents with the cup. Demosthenes next day came into the assembly with a cloth rolled about his neck; and his opinion being demanded about Harpalus, he made signs that he had lost his voice. The Capuans, the Tarentines, and other Greek colonies in the lower parts of Italy, when invaded by the Romans, were no less degenerate than their brethren in Greece when invaded by Philip of Macedon; the same depravation of manners, the same luxury, the same passion for feasts and spectacles, the same intestine factions, the same indifference about their country, and the same contempt of its laws. The Portuguese, enflamed with love to their country, having discovered a passage to the Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, made great and important settlements in that very distant part of the globe; and of their immense commerce there is no parallel in any age or country. Prodigious riches in gold, precious stones, spices, perfumes, drugs, and manufactures, were annually imported into Lisbon from their settlements on the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel, from the kingdoms of Camboya, Decan, Malacca, Patana, Siam, China, &c. from the islands of Ceylon, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Moluccas, and Japan: and to Lisbon all the nations in Europe resorted for these valuable commodities. But the downfal of the Portuguese was no less rapid than their exaltation; unbounded power, and immense wealth, having produced a total corruption of manners. If sincere piety, exalted courage, and indefatigable industry, made the original adventurers more than men; indolence, sensuality, and effeminacy, rendered their successors less than women. Unhappy it was for them to be attacked at that critical time by the Dutch, who, in defence of liberty against the tyranny of Spain, were inflamed with love to their country, as the Portuguese had been formerly.* The Dutch, originally from their situation a temperate and industrious people, became heroes in the cause of liberty; and patriotism was their ruling passion. Prosperous commerce diffused wealth through every corner; and yet such was the inherent virtue of that people, that their patriotism resisted very long the contagion of wealth. But, as appetite for riches increases with their quantity, patriotism sunk in proportion, till it was totally extinguished; and now the Dutch never think of their country, unless as subservient to private interest. With respect to the Dutch East India company in particular, it was indebted for its prosperity to the fidelity and frugality of its servants, and to the patriotism of all. But these virtues were undermined, and at last eradicated, by luxury, which Europeans seldom resist in a hot climate. People go from Europe in the service of the company, bent beforehand to make their fortune per fas aut nefas; and their distance from their masters renders every check abortive. The company, eaten up by its servants, is rendered so feeble, as to be incapable of maintaining its ground against any extraordinary shock. A war of any continuance with the Indian poten-tates, or with the English company, would reduce it to bankruptcy. Is the English East-India company in a much better condition? Such is the rise and fall of patriotism among the nations mentioned; and such will be its rise and fall among all nations in like circumstances.
It grieves me, that the epidemic distempers of luxury and selfishness are spreading wide in Britain. It is fruitless to dissemble, that profligate manners must, in Britain, be a consequence of great opulence, as they have been in every other part of the globe. Our late distractions leave no room for a doubt.6 Listen to a man of figure, thoroughly acquainted with every machination for court-preferment.
Very little attachment is discoverable in the body of our people to our excellent constitution: no reverence for the customs nor for the opinions of our ancestors; no attachment but to private interest, nor any zeal but for selfish gratifications. While party-distinctions of Whig and Tory, high church and low church, court and country, subsisted, the nation was indeed divided, but each side held an opinion, for which they would have hazarded every thing; for both acted from principle: if there were some who sought to alter the constitution, there were many who would have spilt their blood to preserve it from violation: If divine hereditary right had its partisans, there were multitudes to stand up for the superior sanctity of a title, founded on an act of parliament, and the consent of a free people. But, the abolition of party-names hath destroyed all public principles. The power of the crown was indeed never more visibly extensive over the great men of the nation; but then these men have lost their influence over the lower orders: even parliament has lost much of its authority; and the voice of the multitude is set up against the sense of the legislature: an impoverished and heavily burdened public, a people luxurious and licentious, impatient of rule, and despising all authority, government relaxed in every sinew, and a corrupt selfish spirit pervading the whole (a) .*
It is a common observation, that, when the belly is full, the mind is at ease. That observation, it would appear, holds not in London; for never, in any other place, did riot and licentiousness rise to such a height, without a cause, and without even a plausible pretext.†
It is deplorable that, in English public schools, patriotism makes no branch of education: young men, on the contrary, are trained up to selfishness. Keep what you get, and get what you can, is a lesson that boys learn early at Westminster, Winchester, and Eaton; and it is the lesson that perhaps takes the fastest hold of them. Students put themselves in the way of receiving vails from strangers; and that dirty practice continues, though far more poisonous to manners than the giving vails to menial servants, which the nation is now ashamed of. The Eaton scholars are at times sent to the highway to rob passengers. The strong, without controul, tyranize over the weak, subjecting them to every servile office, wiping shoes not excepted. They are permitted to trick and deceive one another; and the finest fellow is he who is the most artful. Friendship indeed is cultivated, but such as we find among robbers: a boy would be run down, if he had no associate. I do not say, and am far from thinking, that such manners are inculcated by the masters; but I say, and am sorry to say, that nothing is done to prevent or correct them.7
When a nation, formerly warlike and public spirited, is depressed by luxury and selfishness, doth nature afford no means for restoring it to its former state? The Emperor Hadrian declared the Greeks a free people; not doubting, but that a change so animating, would restore the fine arts to their pristine lustre.—A vain attempt: for the genius of the Greeks vanished with their patriotism; and liberty to them was no blessing. With respect to the Portuguese, the decay of their power and of their commerce, hath reduced them to a much lower state, than when they rose as it were out of nothing. At that time they were poor, but innocent: at present they are poor, but corrupted with many vices. Their pride, in particular, swells as high as when masters of the Indies. The following ridiculous instance is a pregnant proof: shoes and stocking are prohibited to their Indian subjects; though many of them would pay handsomely for the privilege. There is one obvious measure for reviving the Portuguese trade in India: but they have not so much vigour of mind remaining, as even to think of it. They still possess, in that country, the town and territory of Goa, the town and territory of Diu, with some other ports, all admirably situated for trade. What stands in the way but indolence merely, against declaring the places mentioned free ports, with liberty of conscience to traders of whatever religion? Free traders flocking there, under protection of the Portuguese, would undermine the Dutch and English companies, which cannot trade upon an equal footing with private merchants; and by that means the Portuguese trade might again flourish. But that people are not yet brought so low, as to be compelled to change their manners, though reduced to depend on their neighbours even for common necessaries: the gold and diamonds of Brasil, are a plague that corrupts all. Spain and Portugal afford instructive political lessons: the latter has been ruined by opulence; the former, as will be seen afterward, by taxes no less impolitic than oppressive. To enable these nations to recommence their former course, or any nation in the same condition, I can discover no means but pinching poverty. Commerce and manufactures taking wing, may leave a country in a very distressed condition: but a people may be very distressed, and yet very vitious; for vices generated by opulence are not soon eradicated. And, though other vices should at last vanish with the temptations that promoted them, indolence and pusillanimity will remain for ever, unless by some powerful cause the opposite virtues be introduced. A very poor man, however indolent, will be tempted, for bread, to exert some activity; and he may be trained gradually from less to more by the same means. Activity, at the same time, produces bodily strength; which will restore courage and boldness. By such means a nation may be put in motion with the same advantages it had originally; and its second progress may prove as successful as the first. Thus nations go round in a circle: the first part of the progress is verified in a thousand instances; but the world has not subsisted long enough to afford any clear instance of the other.*
I close this Sketch with two illustrious examples of patriotism; one ancient, one modern; one among the whites, one among the blacks. Aristides the Athenian is famed above all the ancients for love to his country. Its safety and honour were the only objects of his ambition; and his signal disinterestedness made it the same to him, whether these ends were accomplished by himself, or by others, by his friends or his foes. One conspicuous instance occurred before the battle of Marathon. Of the ten generals chosen to command the Athenian army, he was one: but, sensible that a divided command is subjected to manifold inconveniencies, he exerted all his influence for Miltiades; and, at the same time, zealously supported a proposal of Miltiades to meet the Persians in the field. His disinterestedness was still more conspicuous with regard to Themistocles, his bitter enemy. Suspending all enmity, he cordially agreed with him in every operation of the war; assisting him with his counsel and credit, and yet suffering him to ingross all the honour. In peace he was the same, yielding to Themistocles in the administration of government, and contenting himself with a subordinate place. In the senate, and in the assembly of the people, he made many proposals in a borrowed name, to prevent envy and opposition. He retired from public business at the latter part of his life, passing his time in training young men for serving the state, instilling into them principles of honour and virtue, and inspiring them with love to their country. His death unfolded a signal proof of the contempt he had for riches: he who had been treasurer of Greece during the lavishment of war, did not leave money sufficient to defray the expence of his funerals: a British commissary, in like circumstances, acquires the riches of Croesus.
The scene of the other example is Fouli, a negro kingdom in Africa. Such regard is paid there to royal blood, that no man can succeed to the crown, but who is connected with the first monarch, by an uninterrupted chain of females: a connection by males would give no security, as the women of that country are prone to gallantry. In the last century, the Prince of Sambaboa, the King’s nephew by his sister, was invested with the dignity of Kamalingo, a dignity appropriated to the presumptive heir. A liberal and generous mind, with undaunted courage, rivetted him in the affections of the nobility and people. They rejoiced in the expectation of having him for their King. But their expectation was blasted. The King, fond of his children, ventured a bold measure, which was, to invest his eldest son with the dignity of Kamalingo, and to declare him heir to the crown. Though the Prince of Sambaboa had for him the laws of the kingdom, and the hearts of the people, yet he retired in silence to avoid a civil war. He could not, however, prevent men of rank from flocking to him; which, being interpreted a rebellion, the King raised an army, vowing to put them all to the sword. As the King advanced, the Prince retired, resolving not to draw his sword against an uncle, whom he was accustomed to call father. But, finding that the command of the army was bestowed on his rival, he made ready for battle. The Prince obtained a complete victory: but his heart was not elated. The horrors of a civil war stared him in the face: he bid farewell to his friends, dismissed his army, and retired into a neighbouring kingdom; relying on the affections of the people to be placed on the throne after his uncle’s death. During banishment, which continued thirty tedious years, frequent attempts upon his life put his temper to a severe trial; for, while he existed, the King had no hopes that his son would reign in peace. He had the fortitude to surmount every trial; when, in the year 1702, beginning to yield to age and misfortunes, his uncle died. His cousin was deposed; and he was called, by the unanimous voice of the nobles, to reign over a people who adored him.
[* ]“Our parents are dear to us; so are our children, our relations, and our friends: all these our country comprehends; and shall we fear to die for our country?” [[The quotation is from Cicero’s De officiis, bk. I, sec. 57.]]
[1. ]This and the previous paragraph added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, vol. 1. p. 113. edit. 5.
[* ]I know of but one bad effect of patriotism, that it is apt to inspire too great partiality for our countrymen. Excusable in the vulgar, but unbecoming in men of rank and figure. The Duke de Montmorenci, after a victory, treated his prisoners with great humanity. He yielded his bed to Don Martin of Arragon, sent his surgeon to dress his wounds, and visited him daily. That Lord, amazed at so great humanity, said one day to the Duke, “Sir, were you a Spaniard, you would be the greatest man in the universe.” It grieves me to hear it objected to the English, that they have too much of the Spaniard in their sentiments.
[* ]The elevation of sentiment that a struggle for liberty inspires, is conspicuous in the following incident. A Corsican being condemned to die for an atrocious crime, his nephew with deep concern addressed Paoli in the following terms. “Sir, if you pardon my uncle, his relations will give to the state a thousand zechins, beside furnishing fifty soldiers during the siege of Furiali. Let him be banished, and he shall never return.” Paoli, knowing the virtue of the young man, said, “You are acquainted with the circumstances of that case: I will consent to a pardon, if you can say as an honest man, that it will be just or honourable for Corsica.” The young man, hiding his face, burst into tears, saying, “I would not have the honour of our country sold for a thousand zechins.”
[(a) ]Cicero’s letters, b. 1. letter 22.
[2. ]Paragraph added in 2nd edition.
[3. ]Paragraph added in 3rd edition.
[(a) ]Book 1. sketch 5. § 1.
[4. ]“Between the union . . . of the kingdoms”: added in 2nd edition.
[5. ]“The Russians became . . . for the Russians”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]France is not an exception. The French are vain of their country, because they are vain of themselves. But such vanity must be distinguished from patriotism, which consists in loving our country independent of ourselves.
[* ]While patriotism was the ruling passion of the Portuguese, their illustrious General, Don Alphonso d’Albuquerque, carried all before him in the Indies. He adhered to the ancient frugality of his countrymen, and, notwithstanding his great power and wealth, remained uncorrupted. Though liberal in praising his officers, he never preferred any who attempted to gain his favour by flattery. In private life he was of the strictest honour; but, as justice is little regarded between nations, it was no obstruction to his ambitious views of extending the dominions of Portugal.
[6. ]Kames may be alluding to the disturbances caused by supporters of the radical John Wilkes, who was elected to a Middlesex parliamentary seat in the general election of 1768.
[(a) ]The Honourable George Greenville.
[* ]Philip of Macedon, a Prince of great ambition, had unhappily for his neighbours great power and great talents to put his designs in execution. During the whole course of his reign, it was his favourite object to bring the Greek states under subjection, particularly that of Athens, which he the most dreaded. Athens was in a perilous situation, standing on the very brink of ruin; and yet, at that very time, a number of its citizens, men of rank, were so insensible to the distresses of their country, as to form themselves into a club, for feasting, drinking, gaming, and for every sort of sensual pleasure. It was made a rule, that nothing ought to disturb the mirth or jollity of the society. They saw, with indifference, their countrymen arming for battle; and, with the same indifference, they heard every day of the death or captivity of their fellow-citizens. Did there ever exist such wretches in human shape? Reader, spare thy indignation, to vent it on wretches still more detestable. They are at hand: they are in sight. Behold men, who term themselves Britons, fomenting a dangerous rebellion in our colonies, and sacrificing their native country to a feverish desire of power and opulence. How virtuous, in comparison, the Athenian club! But reader, banish such wretches from thy thoughts; they will sour thy temper. Deliver them over to self-condemnation: if they have any conscience left, the punishment will be severe. Wish them repentance. Extend that wish to the arch traitor, now on death-bed, torn to pieces with bodily diseases, and still more with those of the mind.
(This was composed August 1775.) [[Kames quotes from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part Two, III.iii, lines 29–31. The “arch traitor” is presumably William Pitt the elder (1708–78), who, as earl of Chatham, proved willing to accept some of the terms of the American colonists in the early 1770s. Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[† ]This was composed in the year 1770.
[7. ]“I do not . . . or correct them”: added in 2nd edition. In the 1st edition the paragraph ends: “In a word, the most determined selfishness is the capital lesson” [1:450].
[* ]The following letter I had from a gentleman, who, though at Lisbon for the sake of health, neglects no opportunity to increase his stock of knowledge. “Nothing but ocular demonstration could have convinced me that the human species may be depraved to the degree that is exemplified in this country. Whether with regard to politics, morals, arts, or social intercourse, it is equally defective. In short, excepting the mere elementary benefits of earth and air, this country is in the lowest state. Will you believe that I found not a single man who could inform me of the price of land, very few who had any notion to what value the product of their country extends, or of its colonies. No one able to point out the means of reviving Portugal from its present desponding condition. With respect to a general plan of legislation, there is none; unless the caprices of an ignorant despot may be called such, or the projects of a designing minister, constantly endeavouring to depress the nobility, and to beggar the other orders of the state. This the Marquis Pombal has at length completed. He has left the crown possessed of a third part of the land-property, the church enjoying another third, the remainder left to an indigent nobility and their vassals. He has subjected every branch of commerce to ministerial emoluments, and fixed judicial proceedings, both civil and criminal, on the fluctuating basis of his own interest or inclination. Take an instance of their law. A small proprietor having land adjoining to, or intermixed with, the land of a great proprietor, is obliged to sell his possession, if the other wishes to have it. In the case of several competitors to the succession of land, it is the endeavour of each to seize the possession, well knowing that possession is commonly held the best title; and, at any rate, that there is no claim for rents during the time of litigation. All the corn growing in Estremadura must be sold at Lisbon. A tenth of all sales, rents, wages, &c. goes to the King. These instances are, I think, sufficient to give a notion of the present state of the kingdom, and of the merits of Pombal, who has long had the reins in his hands as first minister, who may justly boast of having freed his countrymen from the dread of becoming more wretched than they are at present. It gave me satisfaction to find the doctrines of the Sketches finely illustrated in the history of this singular kingdom. I am,” &c. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]